Spiritual ties to Muskrat Falls 'mumbo jumbo,' MHA says

A Tory backbench MHA from Labrador is criticizing some opponents of the Muskrat Falls hydro project for peddling "mumbo jumbo" about the site's spiritual significance.

Tory Keith Russell criticizes protesters for saying site of hydro project is sacred ground

A Tory backbench MHA from Labrador is criticizing some opponents of the Muskrat Falls hydro project for peddling "mumbo jumbo" about the site’s spiritual significance.

"I guess what we’re seeing now is that people claim to be part of some grassroots-type movement where they want to stop all development to save these rivers," Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell said Thursday on CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning.

Keith Russell is the MHA for Lake Melville.

"And you have people talking about Mother Earth and sacred waters and, you know, spirits flowing through these rivers. And that’s all well and good. But people have to understand too that there is a need for this development. We do need this power ...

"I don’t buy into the mumbo jumbo about the trail leading to the Muskrat Falls site as being sacred ground. You can romanticize and sensationalize that particular piece of land all you want, but it is a resource."

Russell did not say exactly who he was criticizing with his comments. But he said people should consider the motivations of protesters.

"There’s nothing wrong with people protesting," he said. "I’ve been part of protests way back when something tickled me the right way as well. This is not the government saying that you can’t protest. This is Keith Russell saying be wary of people that are furthering their own agenda. Know who they’re connected to.

"Maybe it’s a political party. Maybe it’s another group. Be wary of what people are trying to sell you. Especially when they’re tugging on your heartstrings and starting to talk about spiritual items when referring to the land."

Nalcor, Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown energy corporation, plans to tap Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Churchill River for hydroelectric power. (CBC )

Russell — who is of aboriginal descent, and served as a member in the Inuit government of Nunatsiavut before being elected to the provincial house of assembly last year — said he has never heard the Muskrat Falls site talked about as a sacred piece of ground that should not be disturbed.

"I don’t buy that," Russell said. "And when somebody comes to try and sell you that, just be wary."

The Lake Melville MHA was also critical of CBC coverage of a recent protest at the site.

"We had a $1-million equipment announcement at Lab-Grenfell Health, and zero coverage. And yet four people can throw together an impromptu protest and there they are on Here & Now."

The Tory government announced plans to develop the proposed $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls power project two years ago.

Final, updated cost figures are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

There will be a debate on the project in the house of assembly this fall.