The NunatuKavut Community Council is not prepared to back down on its protests against the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.
The council is continuing to encourage members to “exercise their aboriginal rights on their traditional lands,” according to a statement issued this morning, and is appealing an injunction issued by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in late November.
That court order stated protest activities were not to come within 50 metres of the Muskrat Falls work site, near Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
It also established a "safety zone" for protesters — an area identified as a safe distance from the work site where protesters can continue their demonstration in the vicinity without compromising safety.
The NunatuKavut Community Council argues the order was heavy-handed and too broadly worded. The wording led to questions from senior members of the NunatuKavut Community Council and ultimately an amendment just three days after it was issued, council president Todd Russell told The Telegram.
The stipulation members stay 50 metres from the work site was to apply to all lands associated with the project, Russell said, meaning the buffer zone would cross the Trans-Labrador Highway. In consideration of this, it was decided “incidental use” of these highway areas would no longer be covered by the court order.
Yet the permanent order continues to cover too much, Russell argued.
“The action we took (leading to the order) was adjacent to the access road of the (main) work site,” he said. “The court injunction would now apply or seems to apply to everywhere Nalcor applies for a piece of land in relation to the Muskrat Falls project.”
That will mean access is denied to areas used for a broad range of traditional activities, including hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering, he argued.
“This is not something that lasts for a month, two months or even two years ... it is in permanent effect,” he said.
There has been continuous argument over consultation on Muskrat Falls between the aboriginal group, without a land claim, and both the provincial government and project proponent Nalcor Energy.
The council has said consultation has not been in good faith or to an acceptable level.
The latest court action comes on the heels of a separate loss for the council in Federal Court, wherein the judge tackled the consultation issue.
“The honour of the Crown does not require that the consultation be perfect; it must be conducted in good faith and it must be meaningful. The consultations here have been both,” stated Justice Robert Stack.
Meanwhile, Russell said people should expect a combination of further legal action and on the ground protests from his membership.
“We obviously have a right to voice our legitimate concerns with this project,” he said.
“This is not going to stop because of some so-called sanction decision that was made in mid-December.”