Tag Archives: Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric project

Emergency measures, Military support: Documents reveal heightened concern about Muskrat Falls security

The last of seven transformers for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project rolls through at the gate in late August 2017. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Military provided lodging, meals as police mobilized in the face of more Muskrat Falls-related protests

The Canadian military quietly assisted during a large deployment of police officers to Labrador in 2017 amid fears of more protests about the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

Documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request reveal that the Canadian Armed Forces provided lodging and food at 5 Wing Goose Bay, but stopped well short of giving operational support during a politically sensitive period when officials feared protests may get out of control.

Declaring an emergency

The documents also highlight the extreme level of concern about the movement of massive transformers overland from Cartwright to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, months after protests that disrupted the construction site in central Labrador.

This aerial photo shows one of the Muskrat Falls transformers being transported across Labrador in summer 2017. (Nalcor)

In one letter, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Justice and Public Safety Minister, Andrew Parsons, invokes emergency measures and directs the RCMP to deploy officers “to the extent necessary” to maintain law and order.

“I recognized that it may be necessary to invoke article 9.2 and to seek additional resources by drawing RCMP personnel from neighbouring provinces,” Parsons wrote in a June 19, 2017 letter to the RCMP.

The RCMP responded by deploying dozens of officers — ranging from a low of 80 to a high of 135 — and resources from throughout Atlantic Canada to Labrador between June and September, a mission called Project Beltway that cost the provincial government an estimated $10 million.

A smooth shipment, ahead of schedule

The expected protests, however, never materialized and the transformers were delivered ahead of schedule over the roughly 400 kilometres of road from Cartwright to Happy Valley-Goose Bay without any serious incident.

The seventh and final transformer rolled through the gates at Muskrat Falls on Aug. 25, with a small group of protesters looking on.

There were small protests as seven large transformers destinated for Muskrat Falls were shipped across Labrador from Cartwright last summer, but police say the operation was uneventful. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

So was all the security — and cost — necessary?

Absolutely, said assistant commissioner Peter Clark, commanding officer of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It was a relatively uneventful event. Was that because there were police officers there with the detailed plan and strategy? Or would it have been uneventful anyhow? I believe based on what I know the presence of those police officers and the work they did made the difference in this case,” Clark told CBC News.

But why was it necessary to call in the military?

Clark said there’s limited accommodations in the region, and it made perfect sense to request help from another federal agency.

“We didn’t want to find ourselves putting an unreasonable pressure on existing infrastructure and we wanted to make sure that our people were given healthy and safe accommodation,” Clark explained.

“And the way to do that was to simply reach out to our Canadian Forces partners.”

The military agreed to help, but with strict limitations on its role.

In a letter to the justice minister, the then commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic said the military would not assist in any activities of an “operational nature.”

“This includes any manner of forcible control of the civilian population by CAF personnel, use of CAF facilities or equipment to detain any individual placed under arrest, and providing transportation to and from operational policing activities,” Rear Admiral John Newton wrote in a May 31, 2017 letter to Parsons.

David Nuke leads protesters out of the Muskrat Falls site in October 2016 following a four-day occupation of a section of the accommodations complex. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

In other words, a behind-the-scenes role, ensuring clashes between soldiers and Indigenous protesters, like the ones that made international headlines during the Oka crisis in Quebec in 1990 were not repeated.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Forces said it’s not uncommon for the military to lend assistance to provincial and federal agencies, and cited examples such as the Olympics, meetings of world leaders and even during international drug busts.

Protests turned ugly in 2016

The threat level was high because of persistent protests at the Muskrat Falls site in the fall of 2016 that resulted in costly and significant interruptions to construction, court injunctions, arrests and even hunger strikes.

Children cling to the fence outside the main gate of the Muskrat Falls work site during October 2016 protests at the Labrador construction site. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The protests were staged by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups and individuals opposed to the project, and forced the RCMP to scramble officers to Labrador in large numbers.

With that as a backdrop, the RCMP and Parsons reached out to the military for assistance, and those concerns reached all the way to Ottawa.

“There is reason to believe that between June and September of 2017 protest activities will resume,” Parsons wrote in a May 31, 2017 letter to Ralph Goodale, the federal minister of Public Safety.

Parsons was not available for an interview.

By Terry Roberts, CBC News Posted: Feb 01, 2018


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Muskrat Falls Workers Bussed Out After Protesters Occupy Site In Central Labrador

Protesters enter the Muskrat Falls site after breaking through a gate Saturday afternoon. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Protesters enter the Muskrat Falls site after breaking through a gate Saturday afternoon. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Protesters Cut Lock, Enter Muskrat Falls Site

By Lukas Wall, CBC News Posted: Oct 22, 2016


Busloads of workers are being sent home after protesters trespassed onto the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Central Labrador yesterday and began occupying the work camp.

Ten buses arrived at the hydro electric project late Saturday to retrieve workers.

At around 2:30 p.m. AT, a group of about 60 protesters broke through the gate, with about 200 more remaining at the gate.

Several trucks also entered the site carrying protesters, one driven by Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge.

A number of unscheduled flights have since arrived at the Goose Bay Airport, the closest air strip to the site.

Moving forward

Neither contractors, nor Nalcor, the crown company behind the megaproject, have returned request for comment about the level of work at the hydro electric project.

Premier Dwight Ball released a statement Saturday evening saying a meeting with Indigenous groups and the province has been scheduled for Tuesday.

“Until this meeting has occurred, Nalcor will do nothing to increase water levels above the falls,” he said in the statement.

Protesters have been calling for the clearing of all vegetation at the Muskrat Falls reservoir prior to initial flooding which Nalcor has said to expect by the end of this month.

Controversial project

Muskrat Falls, a multi-billion dollar hydroelectric project in central Labrador, has been the subject of much controversy.

Cost overruns, a construction collapse and now protests against Nalcor, the province-owned company building it, have plagued the project.

Protesters are demanding Nalcor clear the reservoir of vegetation and topsoil before flooding begins to prevent the leaching of methylmercury into the water.

A study conducted by researchers from Harvard University in 2015 determined that methylmercury levels would rise with Muskrat Falls flooding, increasing the potential for mercury contamination in traditional food sources like fish and seal downstream in nearby Lake Melville.

However, Gilbert Bennett, vice-president of the Lower Churchill Project with Nalcor Energy, said at the time “we do not predict that creation of the Muskrat Falls reservoir will heighten risk to people in Lake Melville.”

Minister Siobhan Coady and Perry Trimper at a new conference Wednesday, where they announced government is telling Nalcor to clear more forest cover from the Muskrat Falls reservoir site. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Minister Siobhan Coady and Perry Trimper at a new conference Wednesday, where they announced government is telling Nalcor to clear more forest cover from the Muskrat Falls reservoir site. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Increasing opposition to the project led Environment Minister Perry Trimper to order Nalcor to remove more forest cover at the reservoir on Wednesday to further address “anxiety and concern” surrounding methylmercury.

For now, clearing of trees will take place inside the initial 25-metre flooding zone before the flooding begins. Nalcor says it plans to look at clearing options for the second watermark at 39 metres.

The plan doesn’t call for soil clearing.

Protester cut lock

Darren Sheppard says he cut the lock off of a fence at the entrance to the site to give the protesters access.

“I cut the lock because Nalcor is going to go ahead and do the work,” Sheppard said.

He said the company has the time and ability to clear the vegetation from the site before the flooding begins, and protesters will remain on the site until Nalcor agrees to complete the work.

“If they’re not going to do that, then we will stay on site until they say yes,” said Sheppard.

“Once they [say] yes, we’ll all walk off freely, we’re all friendly protesters.”

He said he “doesn’t care” about any possible police reaction.

“I’m standing up for what I believe in and what’s right.”

Police close Trans Labrador Highway

Several RCMP vehicles also attended the site Saturday afternoon and closed Route 510, also known as the South Coast Highway, while protests continue. Hundreds of vehicles are backed up on the road.

About 100 protesters abandoned their vehicles and gathered at the police blockade. Officers on the scene said the situation has become a public safety concern and they are working to gain control.

Nalcor issued a warning on Twitter urging those on the site to use caution. The company said there is a significant safety risk to protesters and workers, as construction sites can be hazardous.

Flooding on the site will not begin tomorrow, according to Nalcor, and a decision has not yet been made on when the flooding will begin.

There have also been reports that workers on the site have been asked to go to muster stations.