Tag Archives: Muskrat Falls

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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Jailed Indigenous Protesters Offered Release If They Agree To Stay Away From Muskrat Falls

Eldred Davis, left, signed an undertaking to stay away from Muskrat Falls site. Jim Learning and Marjorie Flowers are both under house arrest. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Majorie Flowers and Eldred Davis accept conditions; Jim Learning later accepts house arrest

CBC News Posted: Jul 31, 2017

Three Indigenous protesters jailed over a week ago at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s appeared in court today before a judge.

Majorie Flowers, Jim Learning and Eldred Davis have been jailed ever since they refused to promise a judge on July 21 they would stay away from the Muskrat Falls site.

On Monday, each protester appeared before a judge to determine whether they’ll remain in jail until their next appearance.

Davis said his time in HMP has been very difficult, and signed an undertaking promising he would comply and was released.

He’ll still be able to protest at Muskrat Falls in a location across the main gate that’s known as the “protest pad.”

Flowers’ lawyer asked she be given house arrest and the judge accepted the offer.

Learning, the eldest of the three at 79, initially refused to sign a similar undertaking.

However, later in court, Learning he did eventually agree to house arrest.

Labrador MP wants injunction dropped

In an interview with Labrador Morning on Monday,  Labrador MP Yvonne Jones said she wants Nalcor to drop the injunction preventing protesters from peacefully rallying outside of Muskrat Falls before more of them are jailed.

Majorie Flowers, Jim Learning and Eldred Davis appeared before a court Monday via video-link in St. John’s. (Submitted)

“My fear in all of this is that a lot of innocent people in Labrador who are firmly believing in standing up for their position on Muskrat Falls [are] going to be incarcerated and serve time as a result of it,” she said.

Jones believes there are other ways to discipline protesters who block access to the Muskrat Falls site or damage property than imprisoning them.

Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones says that she would like to see Nalcor drop an injuction that has put several protesters behind bars in St. John’s. (CBC)

Peaceful protest should be a hallmark of our democracy, said Jones.

“It’s a sense of being free in a democratic country and being able to stand up for what you believe in and being able to have your message heard,” she said.

Supporters deliver petition demanding release

Prior to the court appearance today, over a dozen supporters of the imprisioned protestors marched to Confederation Building from Allandale Road to deliver a petition asking that Flowers, Learning and Davis be released.

Similar protests took place in Halifax and Happy Valley-Goose Bay as well.





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


Muskrat Falls Opponent in Custody, Protesters Block Court Vehicle

Beatrice Hunter, far left (wearing headband) is being held in custody. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Beatrice Hunter wouldn’t promise to obey court order and stay away from the site

By Katie Breen, CBC News Posted: May 29, 2017

A Muskrat Falls protester is being held in custody after refusing to tell a judge in Happy Valley-Goose Bay court that she’d stay away from the site — and a group called Labrador Land Protectors are protesting her detainment.

Beatrice Hunter was one of four people who appeared in court Monday afternoon for protesting at the project’s main gate on May 20 and 21.

The other three individuals were released after promising Justice George Murphy they would obey the existing court order. Hunter, however, said she couldn’t promise to stay away from the site, and Murphy ordered her to be held in custody.

As Hunter was being loaded in a police van Monday afternoon, members of a group called Labrador Land Protectors laid down in front of the vehicle. Hunter was then led back inside Supreme Court.

“That’s exactly what Nalcor is doing to us, they’re keeping us away,” said Erin Saunders, one of three who said she’d refrain from protesting.

“I guess I’m going to have to obey this because if I go back down there — or anyone else — the judge said, ‘Arrest them right on the spot,’ and he gave that order to the sheriff’s department.”

The RCMP advised the crowd outside the courthouse that if they continued to obstruct a police vehicle, protesters would be charged with obstruction.

Erin Saunders also appeared in court on Monday but was let out on the promise that she wouldn’t break the injunction or her undertaking again. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The group Labrador Land Protectors gathered at the main gate over the Victoria Day weekend in reaction to the flooding at Mud Lake.

The lawyer for Nalcor said the Crown corporation identified 10 people who broke the order, but that the four in court Monday were “repeat offenders.”

The lawyer said Nalcor would be pursuing contempt of court proceedings against the rest of the group, as well as five people who walked onto the North Spur site prior to the May 20 and 21 protest.

The undertaking that Hunter and the other protesters signed states that they will stay at least one kilometre away from any Muskrat site.

The three people who agreed to uphold the existing injunction are due back in court next Monday.


RCMP Shut Key Labrador Road As Protest Grows Over Muskrat Falls Megaproject

The Canadian Press | Oct. 24, 2016

Muskrat Falls, N.L. – Protesters who broke into the sprawling Muskrat Falls construction site are risking serious injury, the CEO of the Crown corporation in charge of the megaproject said Monday as RCMP shut a key road out of safety concerns.

“We are extremely concerned with the presence of the outside groups on our site, as it puts them and members of our team and contractors at risk,” Stan Marshall said in a statement Monday.

About 50 protesters entered the central Labrador site on Saturday and occupied an accommodation complex, prompting the company to remove about 700 workers from the grounds.

About two dozen protesters have since moved toward the actual construction zone, which poses a major risk to those without proper training and safety equipment, Marshall said.

“This is a large-scale construction site with heavy equipment,” Marshall said. “We continue to work with the RCMP and seek their guidance to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

Nalcor has asked the protesters to leave the site and proceed to a designated safety zone outside the main gate, where they can continue their protest.

The RCMP later cited safety reasons for closing Route 510, which extends from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in central Labrador to the region’s southeast coast. The Mounties also said drivers can also expects delays on Route 500, which stretches across western Labrador.

“Emergency vehicles are in the area and drivers are asked to proceed with caution,” the RCMP said.

Support from across country

The protesters have drawn support from across the province and country in recent days over concerns about methylmercury contamination that will occur when a 41-square-kilometre area is flooded behind the hydroelectric dam.

Last week, Nalcor agreed to remove more forest cover from the area to alleviate those concerns. But the protesters say they also want all soil removed before the reservoir is created, citing research from a Harvard University research team.

Nalcor officials have said such a move would be unprecedented for a hydro project.

The project is upstream from 2,000 Inuit and other residents in the Lake Melville region.

One Inuk artist who has stopped eating to protest the project has said he’s prepared to die for his cause.

Billy Gauthier and two other protesters travelled to Ottawa for a rally Sunday. He said he’s lost nearly 18 pounds since eating his last meal on October 13th.

Nalcor says methylmercury — a neurotoxin linked to intellectual issues in children, heart problems and other issues — will likely increase between 2.3 and 4.8 times in the lower Churchill River before falling back to baseline levels over the next 15 years.

The corporation has confirmed that residents in the area can eventually expect an advisory warning them to limit their consumption of fish to reduce the risks associated with ingestion of methylmercury.

The impact on people’s health would depend on who will be eating the fish, what type of fish they eat, and how often they eat it. Children and women of child-bearing age are the most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of methylmercury, which is formed when inorganic mercury interacts with bacteria typically found in lakes and streams.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball issued a statement Saturday that Nalcor would do nothing to increase water levels until a meeting Tuesday with community leaders. On Sunday, he said in another statement he had been out of the province for a few days “to attend to personal matters,” but the timing of Tuesday’s meeting was accommodate all attendees.

Marshall took over as head of the project last spring after the province’s new Liberal government criticized the project’s lack of oversight.

In June, Marshall confirmed that the estimated cost of the project had jumped from about $7 billion to $11.4 billion. The project is already two years behind schedule When asked if the project had become a “boondoggle,” Marshall agreed.

“My task is to ensure in four years it will not be,” he said at the time.