Woman Arrested in Muskrat Falls Protest Moved to Men’s Prison in St. John’s

Labrador’s Beatrice Hunter is now behind bars at the province’s largest male prison, days after the Labrador Land Protectors held a vigil outside of the RCMP’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay lockup. (Facebook and CBC)

Beatrice Hunter — an Inuit grandmother — has been transferred more than 1,000 kilometres from home

CBC Posted: Jun 02, 2017 

Beatrice Hunter, a Labrador woman sent to jail this week after she told the court she could not promise to obey an injunction against protesting at Muskrat Falls, is now behind bars at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s.

With no female correctional facility in Labrador, Hunter is just the latest woman to end up in the province’s largest male prison.

“Females are being held again at HMP because of crowding at the Clarenville (women’s) facility,” said Memorial University professor and sociologist Rose Ricciardelli on Friday.

“It’s definitely a problem. It’s very challenging. She’s clearly not in a good space, she’s probably not very comfortable where she is and she doesn’t have the supports that would be essential.”

Hunter was brought into custody on Monday morning during proceedings related to charges laid after a Muskrat Falls protest over the Victoria Day weekend.

Beatrice Hunter was taken into custody Monday, after she told the court she would not promise to stay away from the Muskrat Falls construction site. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Shouldn’t be incarcerated

Ricciardelli says Hunter shouldn’t have been incarcerated in the first place.

“There’s no need or reason that a non-violent individual would be held in a … place such as prison,” she told CBC’s Labrador Morning.

Though Hunter was given the option by a judge to avoid prison time if she agreed to stay away from Muskrat Falls, Ricciardelli says more alternatives should have been made available.

“Giving her this option of saying, ‘Can you adhere? Can you stay away from the land?‘ is not really presenting an alternative if she feels like her role is to be on the land,” she said.

“Her choices were very clear [and] she was very honest in her response.”

Being sent to prison far away from home also places an undue burden on families of inmates like Hunter, said Ricciardelli. Hunter lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, located in northern Labrador, more than 1,000 kilometres from St. John’s.

“There are no resources in places to have families go and visit loved ones who are incarcerated,” she said.

‘She’s in there with murderers’

A small group of supporters gathered outside HMP on Friday afternoon to protest Hunter’s incarceration.

“We would like to see her freed. It’s ridiculous,” said Jodi Greenleaves. “There was no violent crimes committed … they have her inside here in a men’s prison that’s over-populated and is in disgusting condition.”

“She’s in there with murderers and rapists and drug abusers — she’s an Inuit grandmother, a kind and gentle person. She’s not at risk to hurt anybody … she’s a political prisoner, is what she is.”

Jodi Greenleaves, originally of Cartwright, stands outside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s on Friday to protest Beatrice Hunter’s incarceration at the men’s prison. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Hunter, who went onto the main Muskrat Falls site last October, is expected to appear in provincial court Tuesday for a hearing.

With files from Labrador Morning and Gary Locke

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