Nfld. & Labrador

Confederation Building flags pulled down by protester at Muskrat Falls rally

A protester hauled down flags at Confederation Building Tuesday, as Premier Dwight Ball held a meeting with Indigenous leaders on the controversial Muskrat Falls project inside.

Protesters release list of conditions to end hunger strike; mayors want in on meeting

A protester removed three flags from outside Confederation Building Tuesday during a rally in support of protesters at Muskrat Falls. (CBC)

A protester hauled down flags at Confederation Building Tuesday, as Premier Dwight Ball held a meeting with Indigenous leaders on the controversial Muskrat Falls project inside.

Protesters rallied outside Confederation Building steps in St. John's, attempting to pressure the provincial government to make changes to the hydro-electric megaproject.

"Our government has been silent and ignorant long enough, they're no longer legitimate," said Adam Pitcher — also a frequent protester against the province's spring budget — as he removed the Union Jack.

"F--k colonialism, this is the end of colonialism."

Ball is meeting with of the Innu Nation, the Nunatsiavut Government and the NunatuKavut Community Council.

Protesters gathered at the Confederation Building in St. John's Tuesday in an attempt to address concerns about Muskrat Falls and possible methylmercury contamination. 1:20

The meeting is an attempt to address concerns about Muskrat Falls, particularly those about possible methylmercury contamination, which have gained national prominence since protesters began blockading the entrance and occupying the project site in Labrador.

The premier is expected to address the media Tuesday evening after the meeting has completed.

Dwight Ball returns to N.L., plans to meet with Indigenous groups

A Facebook page, Solidarity Rally Outside The Muskrat Falls Meeting, credits protesters and hunger strikers for causing the meeting to happen, and is calling for people to join a peaceful rally in support.

Muskrat Falls hunger strikers came from Labrador to protest at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street in Ottawa on the weekend. The protesters have released the conditions they say have to be met for them to end their hunger strikes. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

"Billy Gauthier, Delilah Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister have brought their message to Ottawa," reads the Facebook page.

"Now, we in St. John's have a critical responsibility: to amplify the voices of the hunger strikers and land protectors and bring their message to the steps of the Confederation Building while the premier meets inside."

Gauthier, Saunders and Kohlmeister released a list of conditions Tuesday that would have to be met for them to end their hunger strikes:

  • An "evidence-based approach supported by peer-review science" to mitigate methylmercury concerns
  • An independent assessment of the need for first-phase flooding based on Nalcor's science and engineering reports. "If flooding is necessary flooding height and duration is kept to a minimum. First-phase flooding will be used to help inform second-phase of flooding," reads the list of conditions
  • The removal of soil to minimize methylmercury elevation as a result of the flooding
  • A commitment from the federal government to fulfil its regulatory obligations and participate in an integrated monitoring program.

"This is going to be the big issue for the province today," said Labrador MP Yvonne Jones from Ottawa on Tuesday.

Jones, who said that she had been acting as a communicator between the hunger strikers and the provincial government, said she is hopeful that an agreement can be reached at the meeting in St. John's.

But she says there's no chance the Muskrat Falls project can be cancelled.

No going back

The Labrador MP was an MHA in 2012, when the project was being debated in the House of Assembly. She voted against it at the time, but says she now understands there is no going back.

She says she's looked at the financial analysis, and has realized there is no responsible way to leave Muskrat Falls unfinished.

"If you shut down Muskrat Falls as it is, the province is still going to be on the hook, and that means the taxpayers of the province will be on the hook to pay out all of these contracts and to meet their obligations," she said.

"We have to finish the project, but we have to finish it knowing that we've taken every possible risk to mitigate human health issues as a result of this, and it can be done." 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the Muskrat Falls project in Question Period on Tuesday. (CBC)

In Question Period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had confidence in the provincial government.

"We are ensuring that province continues to consult and engage on this project, with the full respect that we all expect will be shown towards Indigenous peoples in this country," he said.

Meanwhile, municipalities are calling for a spot at the meeting table. Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford — also the president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador — released a statement Tuesday saying she's disappointed municipal leaders were not invited to today's meeting.

The municipalities had selected Mayor Jamie Snook to bring their concerns to the table, but he was not invited.- Karen Oldford

"We wrote ministers [Perry] Trimper, [Siobhan] Coady, and [Eddie] Joyce as well as Premier Ball asking that municipal leaders be included in this important discussion," said Oldford in the statement.

"The municipalities had selected [Happy Valley-Goose Bay] Mayor Jamie Snook to bring their concerns to the table, but he was not invited."

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