Muskrat Falls entrance blocked by protesters

A group of protesters stopped traffic yesterday at the Muskrat Falls gate.

Calls for Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee to step down

Protesters block entrance to Muskrat Falls. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A group of protesters stopped traffic at the gate to the Muskrat Falls construction site Thursday. 

"[We] are trying to protect our people, our culture and our land," Jerome Jack told the CBC. 

Jack says he has been working for the Innu Nation as an impact benefit agreement coordinator, but his phone has been cut off and he's uncertain of his employment. 

Jerome Jack says had been working for the Innu First Nation as an impact benefit agreement coordinator. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"A lot of deals were going on behind closed doors without my knowledge, without my people's knowledge, without my elders' knowledge."

Jack said the Innu Nation was recently presented with an environmental assessment, including a caribou study, which he says was conducted by a private organization hired by Nalcor. 

"[It] should have been conducted by the Innu Nation, fisheries, the wildlife, our guardians and the forestry and environmental team but it wasn't," Jack said. "It was conducted by Nalcor and signed off by the grand chief herself."

Jack called on Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee to step down, as did fellow protester Herman Montague.

RCMP presence at the protest.

"If she doesn't wish to maintain a constructive dialogue with her own people, well, we ask her to resign and step down and let someone else who can do the job," Montague said.

Meanwhile, Jack said he's in it for the long haul. He brought a tent and a fire pit and plans to stay for "as long as it takes." 

Out but not in

Traffic was stopped from going both in and out of the camp Thursday afternoon.

Several vehicles were lined up at the gate and workers were trying to get home, while others were trying to get back to vote in a by-election in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Protester Herman Montague is calling for Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee to step down (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The protesters eventually let traffic out but say they will not be letting people in.

"It seems to be a very peaceful protest." said Hubert Loder, who represents the project's unionized workers.

RCMP were on site to monitor the protest.

Nalcor also issued a statement saying safety is its top priority and it's monitoring the situation closely.

Hubert Loder, who represents all the unionized workers on the project, says the protest was peaceful.

"Everybody is here trying to work in the spirit of cooperation. Everyone fully understands the position the Innu have taken here," Loder said.

"It's the rationale of the concerns they have raised that need to be addressed and when that's done, I guess everything will go back to a normal mode."

Loder admitted the protest is frustrating for workers who have just flown in to work on the project, but he doesn't expect there to be any friction.

"They fully understand the scope and the concept of what's happening. Hopefully, the [resolution] will come sooner than later." 

Grand Chief Qupee wasn't immediately available for comment.

A copy of the environmental management of caribou study for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.