APTN National News
The organization that represents southern Labrador Inuit condemned the jailing of Inuk land protector Beatrice Hunter.
“Clearly the justice system is flawed,” NunatuKavut President Todd Russell wrote in a statement released Monday. “It has not responded appropriately or fairly to those who have demonstrated their objections to the Muskrat Falls project and been charged as a consequence.”
Hunter, an Inuk grandmother, was sent to a men’s penitentiary 1,000 km to the south in St. John’s May 29 after refusing a judge’s request to stay at least one km away from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam.
Hunter was in court for breaking a previous court order stemming from an occupation of the controversial multi-billion dollar mega-project in Autumn.
The Muskrat Falls project has been facing fierce resistance from Labrador Inuit who say the flooding of the Lower Churchill River will cause the toxin methylmercury to be released into the land.
“I felt like I was being bullied into a corner because of what I believe,” Hunter said to the Independent.ca over the phone from prison. “I felt pressured, in a corner and I was like, ‘No, you can’t do this! You can’t tell me where I can go and where I can’t go!’ I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Hunter is in a men’s prison because Newfoundland’s prison for women is full. There is currently no correctional facility for adult women in Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Justice Andrew Parsons said in a statement that the Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) is adequately prepared to handle female inmates.
“In many ways, the female unit at HMP is like a separate prison. Renovations were made last year at HMP to appropriately and safely accommodate female inmates. The unit is completely self-contained,” said Parsons in the statement.
Aside from calling the punishment of Inuit land protectors such as Hunter unfair, Todd Russell’s statement urges the Ministry of Justice to do more to accommodate Indigenous perspectives in the court of law.
“We challenge the justice system to do better and find culturally appropriate alternatives and solutions,” Russell said. “We challenge the justice system to respond in a manner wherein Inuit and other Indigenous peoples can have some measure of comfort that justice is indeed being done and is seen to be done
fairly and justly.
The Ministry of Justice said it wouldn’t respond to Russell’s statement because the case is still before the courts.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition for Hunter’s release – and daily vigils are being held this week outside the penitentiary she is being held in. Hunter is scheduled to have a hearing on Tuesday.