Nfld. & Labrador

Jailed Muskrat Falls protesters no longer in custody, but not entirely free

Majorie Flowers and Jim Learning have accepted house arrest, and Eldred Davis signed an undertaking to stay away, but can peacefully protest at pad.

Majorie Flowers and Jim Learning under house arrest, Eldred Davis signs undertaking

Eldred Davis, left, signed an undertaking to stay away from Muskrat Falls site. Jim Learning and Marjorie Flowers are both under house arrest. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Three Indigenous Muskrat Falls protesters are no longer being jailed at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's.

Majorie Flowers, Jim Learning and Eldred Davis had been in custody since July 21, when they refused to promise the court they'd stay away from the megaproject. 

On Monday, after appearing before Justice George Murphy at Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Flowers and Learning were given house arrest. Davis signed an undertaking allowing him to be released.

"There were times I thought I might have a breakdown if I stayed much longer and I didn't want to push it," said Davis. 

"I guess I didn't really give up but I had to transfer my abilities and my contribution in another direction, which I will. I'm not going away."

Davis can now peacefully protest Muskrat Falls, even from the area across from the main gate known as the "protest pad."

Flowers felt relief Monday as she stepped outside the courthouse, saying she felt oppressed while incarcerated.

"I'm still firm in my beliefs about why I was there in the first place," said Flowers. 

"We still have to try and stop this project."

Learning, the eldest of the three at age 79, was initially headed back to jail.

He had been presented the option of signing the undertaking or going back HMP. He said he wasn't signing anything and was taken back into custody.

After Flowers' lawyer suggested his client get house arrest, the idea was presented to Learning and he took it, without having to sign an undertaking. 

All three are due back in court in late August for their individual hearings. Flowers and Learning will remain under house arrest until at least then.

Labrador MP wants injunction dropped

In an interview with Labrador Morning on Monday,  Labrador MP Yvonne Jones said she wants Nalcor to drop the injunction preventing protesters from peacefully rallying outside of Muskrat Falls before more of them are jailed.

Majorie Flowers, Jim Learning and Eldred Davis appeared before a court Monday via video-link in St. John's. (Submitted)

"My fear in all of this is that a lot of innocent people in Labrador who are firmly believing in standing up for their position on Muskrat Falls [are] going to be incarcerated and serve time as a result of it," she said.

Jones believes there are other ways to discipline protesters who block access to the Muskrat Falls site or damage property than imprisoning them. 

Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones says that she would like to see Nalcor drop an injuction that has put several protesters behind bars in St. John's. (CBC)

Peaceful protest should be a hallmark of our democracy, said Jones. 

"It's a sense of being free in a democratic country and being able to stand up for what you believe in and being able to have your message heard," she said.

Supporters deliver petition demanding release

Prior to the court appearance Monday, over a dozen supporters of the imprisoned protestors marched to Confederation Building from Allandale Road to deliver a petition asking that Flowers, Learning and Davis be released. 

Similar protests took place in Halifax and Happy Valley-Goose Bay as well. 

With files from Katie Breen and Jacob Barker