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Witnesses at Muskrat Falls Inquiry explain reasons for on-site protests

Muskrat Falls Inquiry associate co-counsel Kirsten Morry prior to the start of proceedings at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Friday.
Muskrat Falls Inquiry associate co-counsel Kirsten Morry prior to the start of proceedings at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Friday. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

Commissioner Richard LeBlanc will look at actions in context of costs, delays

Happy Valley-Goose Bay — At the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Friday, the focus turned to objections to the project, including protest actions that shut down construction work for brief periods of time.

Perhaps the best-known of these events is the point when a group walked onto the site in October 2016, holding a sit-in at the main camp building.

Participants in the actions included members Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and the Labrador Land Protectors.

Friday’s public inquiry hearing began with questions from inquiry associate co-counsel Kirsten Morry, to witnesses Roberta Benefiel and Marjorie Flowers, representing the two organizations.

• Morry called up a list titled “Protest Events” covering 2012 to 2015. During questioning, it was suggested the events don’t cover all of the actions taken that did not disrupt construction, and would not have added in any way to project costs. Benefiel and Flowers made the point the protests halting site work were an extension of frustrations built up over time.

• Flowers spoke passionately about the significance of country foods to Indigenous people of the area and all people of Labrador, emphasizing the significance of the subject of methylmercury creation from the Muskrat Falls reservoir and effects on country foods, and ultimately the population downstream of the project.

“I always stumble over my words because there are no words to describe how this will affect me as an Inuit person,” she said.

Flowers said she is not convinced by assurances from Nalcor Energy it is unlikely to be an issue, but the company will monitor for methylmercury and respond as required.

• Both women expressed fear and frustration that methylmercury and the stability of the North Spur — an area at the dam site — were being dismissed instead of given greater weight and follow-up by the provincial government.

• They called for a formal and firm response from the government on the idea of additional clearing and capping of wetland at the reservoir, regardless of cost, to limit methylmercury production; a government-funded review of the North Spur by an expert approved of by the local population; and efforts to end legal actions extending from the on-site protests in 2016.

The inquiry continues Monday, with the next scheduled witness being Keith Dodson with Westney Consulting Group.

Also on the witness schedule for next week are former premier Paul Davis and former Natural Resources minister Derrick Dalley.

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com


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