Nfld. & Labrador

Muskrat Falls protesters gather at Confederation Building, third protest of day

In a third protest against Muskrat Falls in St. John's on Friday, protesters wheeled a barrel labelled 'toxic' up the steps of the Confederation Building and chanted, "not in my backyard."

Action wanted on potential environmental, cultural and economic impacts of Muskrat Falls

A group of protesters stormed the steps of the Confederation Building in St. John's on Friday to try and get government and Nalcor to prevent methylmercury poisoning from the Muskrat Falls project. 1:24

In a third protest against Muskrat Falls in St. John's on Friday, protesters wheeled a barrel labelled "toxic" up the steps of the Confederation Building and chanted, "not in my backyard." 

Roughly 60 people gathered at noon to voice their concerns about methylmercury poisoning from Muskrat Falls.

Muskrat Falls protesters gathered outside the Confederation Building in St. John's Friday. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"Time is running out, and we don't have much time to convince the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nalcor to fully clear cut the reservoir before flooding happens," said Johannes Lampe, president of Nunatsiavut. 

Nalcor said it plans to start flooding the reservoir as early as Oct. 15, despite opposition.

The​ Nunatsiavut government is calling for removal of all trees, vegetation and soil in the flood area to create a reservoir for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam.

Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe says his government fears the food chain will be contaminated by methylmercury from Muskrat Falls. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Lampe said Friday's protests in St. John's represent a small portion of the "many concerned people" from across Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Aboriginal groups in other areas.  

Shortly before the gathering at the Confederation Building, a handful of angry Muskrat Falls protesters gathered at a press conference with Premier Dwight Ball, MPs, and MHAs at Memorial University.

"Poisoning children is a crime, not on our watch, not our dime," the group chanted shortly after the premier entered a room at MUN to announce funding for the university's Battery facility

A handful of Muskrat Falls protesters gathered at a press conference with Premier Dwight Ball after a protest outside Nalcor Energy in St. John's Friday. 0:48

"My God, you're going to kill people," shouted one protester as the group's chant turned to "make Muskrat right," before the doors closed and the conference got underway. 

That protest followed one of more than 20 people outside Nalcor Energy in St. John's Friday morning. 

Coordinated Approach NL organized the demonstrations to "stand with the people of Labrador" and "bring the concerns of the people directly to Nalcor." 

The group held a blockade and picket line outside the provincial energy corporation's headquarters after 8 a.m.

Worried about Methylmercury poisoning

Other members of Labrador's Nunatsiavut government also took part in the protests.

Protesters slowed traffic outside Nalcor headquarter in St. John's Friday. (Bruce Tilley/ CBC)
They're concerned that methylmercury – which naturally accumulates in trees and soil – will poison wildlife in the area if it's allowed to leach into the reservoir's water.

"It will have a major impact on our people because there will be methylmercury in our fish and in our seals," said Patricia Kemuksigak, Nunatsiavut government's minister of education and economic development. 

"It's our traditional ways and we won't be able to hunt and fish anymore. It's very important for food security, our way of life and our culture."

"We need that food security to keep our families fed and alive, and living in a healthy way," said Lampe. 

Patricia Kemuksigak, a member of the Nunatsiavut Government, lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Bruce Tilley/ CBC)

MUN students support protest

Members of Memorial University's Students' Union said they share the concerns of people in Labrador.

"We have students in Labrador, We have indigenous people and we feel it is important to support those students and take a stance on this issue," said Lindsay Batt, director of finance and services with the MUN students' union and the aboriginal students representative with the Canadian Federation of Students, N.L.
Linsay Batt is with Memorial University's Students' Union. (Bruce Tilley/ CBC)

Batt said the province's plan to begin flooding the reservoir in mid-October without removing soil and vegetation is unacceptable.

"We want them to completely clear the reservoir and mitigate the risk of methylmercury poisoning because you can't willingly poison people and then expect to compensate them later," she said.

Demonstrators want action regarding the potential environmental, cultural and economic impacts of the mega-project.