APTN National News
A group of Labrador land protectors shut down the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in Happy Valley- Goose Bay early Friday morning as part of ongoing protests against the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project.
The group blocked employees who showed up to work at 8 a.m. from entering the office for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Aboriginal Affairs, which also houses the local constituency office for the province’s Environment Minister Perry Trimper.
“We need to send a message to government today. Don’t dismiss us…we’ll take action,” land protector Denise Cole can be heard saying on a Facebook live video. “We’re very clear…we’re shutting the Muskrat hydro project down.”
The group has demanded that Trimper resign and that Premier Dwight Ball step down as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
The land protectors pitched a tent and were prepared to camp outside the office. RCMP watched, but no arrests were made.
Cole posted on Facebook that they were told by police blocking the office could lead to mischief charges.
Watch video of the Friday morning in Happy Valley-Goose Bay here: Muskrat Falls
For months, Indigenous groups have lead the fight against the hydroelectric project run by the provincially owned corporation Nalcor Energy.
In October, dozens of people shut down the Muskrat Falls construction site by occupying Naclor’s offices – all the while three Labradorians were in Ottawa on a hunger strike.
Last minute negotiations, led by Liberal Labrador MP Yvonne Jones, between the land protectors, the province and Nalcor ended the occupation – and the hunger strike.
The occupiers who broke through the gates and occupied the offices were in court today for violating the court injunction obtained by Nalcor.
The province signed an agreement with Innu and Inuit leaders to set up an independent expert advisory committee and look at clearing trees and topsoil from the dam’s reservoir. Organic matter in the flood zone breaks down and creates methylmercury, contaminating traditional food sources downstream.
But that’s not enough for the land protectors. The message has since shifted from #MakeMuskratRight to #ShutMuskratDown.
In an interview on APTN’s Nation to Nation Thursday, Denise Cole spoke about a “gauntlet of issues” from structural stability at an area called the North Spur to the ballooning costs of the project, now over budget at $11 billion.
“We do not trust Nalcor and we don’t trust our provincial government anymore,” Cole told Nation to Nation host Jorge Barrera. “We’re saying enough is enough, shut this project down.”
Opposition to the Muskrat Falls stretches back years, to when the project was first announced back in 2010.
That’s when Dennis Woodrow took an axe to a hydro pole to protest the Muskrat Falls project.
His fine was $8,000.
Today, Dennis Woodrow could be seen on a Facebook live video showing up at Nalcor’s office in Labrador to pay a, $8,000 fine for taking an axe to try and chop down a hydro pole in 2012 at the North Spur area of the Muskrat Falls project site.
Woodrow is also one of the land protectors who occupied the Nalcor site in October, 2016.
“It will be worth every penny when we finally expose this f—ing monster here,” said Woodrow from inside Nalcor’s office where he waited to see if he could pay the fine, showing off his cheque made out to Nalcor. “And I’d like to thank the few who helped with this. Much appreciated.”