Sunday, May 13, 2018

15 Indigenous Land Protectors and Allies Arrested on Parliament Hill: Reports and Updates from Muskrat Falls National Day of Action

Labrador Land Protectors (from left) Angus Andersen, Jim Learning, Eldred Davis and Marjorie Flowers all traveled over 2,000 km from Labrador to share the voices and faces of those most at risk from the lethal Muskrat Falls megadam, which the Trudeau government backs with a $9.2 billion investment. The response of the Trudeau government was the same as it's been across the land responding to land and water protectors: 15 arrests, including Learning, Davis and Flowers.


Monday, May 7 was a powerful day on Parliament Hill (located on unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory), as well as across the country with six separate gatherings in Winnipeg, Mississauga, Halifax, St. John's, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay in support of the Labrador Land Protectors at Muskrat Falls.

At the bottom of this post are links so that you can watch the four compelling videos of the various stages of the Ottawa gathering. You will also see pictures from across the land.

It also includes links to media coverage, a new petition on methylmercury poisoning of the Inuit downstream of Muskrat Falls from Amnesty International, ideas on getting involved, and upcoming events in Toronto (where we will gather Thursday, May 24 at 1 pm at 250 Front Street West to bring the faces and words of those most at risk to the shareholders of Emera, Inc., one of the biggest Muskrat Falls dam profiteers) and Ottawa (Monday, May 28, time TBA, a gathering at the office of Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, calling her to account for her failure to uphold Canada's legally binding responsibilities under the Minamata Convention on Mercury).

In Ottawa, Labrador Land Protectors and their allies tried to enter the House of Commons to place on the desks of all 338 MPs the faces and words of those most at risk from the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador, which threatens Indigenous people and settlers alike with methylmercury poisoning and mass drowning via catastrophic dam break. Free, prior and informed consent was never sought by the provincial and federal governments, and certainly never received from all Indigenous people affected by this lethal project.

Their lives and their lands and waters, as well as all life forms in the area,  have been turned into a national sacrifice zone that the Trudeau government is backing to the tune of $9.2 billion. An act of impending cultural genocide is well under way.

The response of the Trudeau government to the May 7 gathering was what it has been from coast to coast to coast since they took office: to arrest Indigenous land and water protectors and non-Indigenous supporters. Fifteen people aged 28 to 92 were arrested, including three Indigenous land protectors: Marjorie Flowers, Jim Learning, and Eldred Davis, who had driven the long 2,000-km journey from Labrador to attend.

Also present on the Hill was Angus Andersen, an Inuk man from Nain, Labrador, who handed out bottles of "Muskrat Falls Methylmercury Water." 

We still have much to do to stop the Muskrat Falls megadam before it goes online. But for now, we invite you to see the faces and hear the voices who came to Ottawa in these powerful videos, as well as the voices who spoke out from Winnipeg to Happy-Valley Goose Bay.

We look forward to you raising your voice with us as we continue our campaign to stop this dam from going online, an utterly predictable disaster which cannot be reversed.


Ontario Muskrat Solidarity Coalition

(thanks to Anne Dagenais Guertin of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group for your videography!)

The Day Begins at the Human Rights Monument

The Day Continues at the Prime Minister's office, rudely booting out Land Protectors, who nonetheless persevered in delivering methylmercury water

Once on the Hill, the Labrador Land Protectors speak truth to three Parliamentary Secretaries – from the ministries of Stolen Resources, Colonial Affairs, and Ocean Pollution. They then try to enter the House of Commons and are placed under arrest, with an Indigenous woman, Marjorie Flowers, the only one targeted for differential treatment: being painfully handcuffed.

Following their release – all were banned from Parliament Hill for 90 days, even though the group rejected colonial jurisdiction, having sought and received the support of title holders from the Algonquins of Barriere Lake – they reflect on the day, and remind all that they never gave free, prior and informed consent for the Muskrat Falls megadam.

MEDIA COVERAGE  (excellent overview from Ottawa Citizen)

Radio Interviews:


A fantastic collection of powerful photos from Dr. Peter Stockdale in Ottawa:

Raging Grannies Collection:

From across the land:


International statement of support 

While this Amnesty International petition focuses on methylmercury, it is equally critical that we not lose sight of the other lethal threat at Muskrat Falls: the threat of catastrophic dam break because it is built on quick clay (soil that moves and liquefies under pressure).

Thursday, May 24, 1 pm, Toronto: Emera: See the Faces,  Hear the Voices at Risk From Muskrat Falls
Information Vigil at the Annual General Meeting of Major Muskrat Falls Partner Emera Inc.
Glenn Gould Studio, CBC, 250 Front Street West, Toronto

On Thursday, May 24 from 1 to 2:30 pm, join us as we bring the faces and voices of those most at risk from the lethal Muskrat Falls megadam to the project's biggest beneficiaries, the shareholders of Emera, Inc.

More at

Monday, May 28, Time TBA: Ottawa Vigil at Office of Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
May 28 will mark almost 14 months since Canada signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a legally binding treaty negotiated under the United Nations Environment Programme to reduce mercury emissions and to protect the environment and human health. McKenna says, "Our Government is unwavering in its commitment to safeguard the environment and the health of Canadians from the effects of mercury."

Yet the Convention is being violated at Muskrat Falls, where the Trudeau government's $9.2 billion investment in Muskrat Falls guarantees a massive spike in methylmercury poisoning. The Convention Canada signed on to is clear in recognizing  "the particular vulnerabilities of Arctic ecosystems and indigenous communities because of the biomagnification of mercury and contamination of traditional foods, and concerned about indigenous communities more generally with respect to the effects of mercury."

The Minamata Convention is a 21st century response to the catastrophic pollution in Minamata, Japan, where industrial releases of methyl mercury caused the epidemic known as the Minamata disease in the 1950s and onwards.

1. Join the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition at or (613) 267-3998

2. Like our Facebook page at

3. Like the Facebook page of the Labrador Land Protectors at

4. You can help contribute to our costs by writing cheques to Homes not Bombs at PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0, or sending etransfers to

5. Share this post with friends!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

National Support for Labrador Land Protectors on May 7

On Monday, May 7, gatherings took place in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Mississauga, St. John's. Halifax and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

One of the largest Labrador Land Protector solidarity gatherings ever to take place outside of the province was held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Mississauga, Ontario. 

One inspiring teacher wrote of the over 200 grade 10 students who had researched and learned about the issue and made banners and placards for the Muskrat Falls National Day of Action: 

"These totally empowered young people rallied, spoke, chanted and really delivered a clear and powerful message to the school and those driving by with their cars. Carmel students held a very meaningful rally and die-in on the front steps of the school. Jodie Williams (an Ojibwe Indigenous consultant to the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board) was there for both rallies and she said thank you to the students after their action. The banners, placards and speeches that were made throughout our walk with the megaphone were insightful and inspiring. I am truly proud of the students for their commitment, organization and participation. They delivered a powerful message of solidarity."

And so grows the movement to end the federal government's $9.2 billion investment in a project that will result in an act cultural genocide against the Inuit and Innu people and ruin the lives of all non-Indigenous downstream residents too through methylmercury poisoning and threat of mass drowning. #ShutMuskratDown!


In Halifax, Angela Giles reports that about 30 people gathered outside the office of Emera, Inc. (the Halifax-based power company and Muskrat Falls partner that will make a huge profit from the project). Billy Lewis (urban Indigenous Elder) welcomed the group to the unceded ancestral territory of the Mi'kmaq Nation and spoke about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and connecting all of these megaprojects; Gretchen Fitzgerald (Sierra Club) spoke about the fight against Muskrat Falls, how long it's been going on, concerns around the North Spur and flooding, and this not being the type of renewable energy we want in Nova Scotia; Chris White (Solidarity Halifax) spoke about the connection with Emera and called on them to hold Nalcor to account on the Independent Experts Advisory Committee recommendations for clearance of trees, brush and topsoil in the Muskrat Falls reservoir area, as well as the connection to capitalism and unfettered growth at the expense of all else - the environment, Indigenous rights, peoples' lives, etc.

And in Winnipeg a gathering at Manitoba Hydro:

In St John's, Elise Thorburn reports: We gathered and catalogued all the things we'll lose if Muskrat Falls goes ahead - the land, water, human and non-human beings and cultures - and committed ourselves to decolonizing struggle together. 

In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador Land Protectors gathered outside the office of local MP Yvonne Jones in solidarity with all actions taking place on May 7. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Inuk Elders Join Muskrat Falls Megadam Opponents for Rally and Civil Disobedience on Parliament Hill, Monday, May 7, 11 am

Seniors, Students Among Those Risking Arrest to Protest Trudeau Government's $9.2 billion investment in Labrador megaproject that risks act of cultural genocide

OTTAWA – On Monday, May 7, Labrador Inuk elders who have journeyed thousands of kilometres will be joined by supporters as they gather to rally on Parliament Hill at 11 am, following which they will attempt to nonviolently enter the House of Commons and physically place on the desks of all 343 MPs the pictures and words of those most at risk from the lethal effects of the Muskrat Falls megadam. It is part of a national day of action that will also witness demonstrations in Winnipeg, Goose Bay, Halifax, and St. John's.

A March to the Hill begins shortly after 10 am from the Human Rights Monument (Lisgar and Elgin).

The controversial $13-billion dam has been widely criticized for recklessly endangering the health and well-being of the largely Indigenous population who live downstream, as well as that of non-Indigenous residents. Core concerns include major spikes in methylmercury poisoning of a country food web that has always been critical to the social, cultural, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the Inuit and Innu peoples. The dam's proponent, crown corporation Nalcor Energy, refuses to properly clear vegetation and soil in the area that will be flooded (the dangerous neurotoxin methylmercury is released through the decomposition of organic materials once under water).

Opponents are also concerned about the potential for a catastrophic dam break: a large natural formation known as the North Spur is being relied upon as a significant portion of the dam's reservoir, but it is largely composed of quick clay, or sand that moves and liquefies under pressure. The world's leading expert on quick clay, Dr. Stig Bernander, has studied the dam and concluded that Nalcor has failed to perform the proper tests to ensure that the North Spur is stable enough to be safe.

Nunatukavut Elders Jim Learning, aged 79, and Eldred Davis, as well as Labrador Land Protector Marjorie Flowers – all of whom spent 10 days in a maximum security Newfoundland prison last summer for peaceful acts of land protection – will lead the May 7 rally, having driven over 2,000 km to deliver a very strong message. Along with a group of supporters trained in nonviolence, they will carry the pictures of people in Labrador whose voices have yet to be heard by the megadam's single biggest investor: a federal government that is continuing to discard its responsibility to seek the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous people affected, and which is also ignoring the science which clearly documents significant risk. Angus Andersen, an Inuk man originally from Nain, is also attending, with plans to hand Parliamentarians symbolic bottles of "Muskrat Falls Methylmercury Water."

"They are destroying ways of life that have existed since time immemorial and putting people's lives at risk with a project that even the Nalcor CEO admits is a boondoggle that should never have been built," says Learning. "We need to let all people in Canada know that they are on the hook for this project, which is likely to bankrupt Newfoundland and Labrador and poison a population that is 90% Indigenous. Is this what the Trudeau government thinks truth and reconciliation is about? He came to Labrador to apologize for the genocide of residential schools, but he's backstopping a new genocide with over $9 billion."

In 2016, a four-year, peer-reviewed study by Harvard University clearly illustrated the disastrous consequences expected to result if the Muskrat Falls megadam goes online as expected in 2020. Even with clearance of vegetation and soil, however, there is no guarantee that methylmercury can be contained, and Ottawa recently signed off on a recommendation that Indigenous people start negotiating a compensation fund to make up for the loss cultures that have existed since time immemorial.

"This is not like replacing a toothbrush or a DVD player, this is about losing a cultural and spiritual connection to the land, water, and food web that we have always relied on," says Labrador Land Protector Denise Cole, one of scores of individuals who have been charged for peacefully resisting the project. "Nothing can compensate for the loss of what makes us who we are. Our identity is being poisoned, and many of our people are experiencing the trauma induced by fear: fear that our way of life will disappear in a generation, and the more immediate fear that keeps people sleeping with life jackets under their bed, which is the risk of a catastrophic dam break and flash flood."

Matthew Behrens, an organizer of the Ottawa event (put together by the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition), hopes that the Parliament Hill civil disobedience will draw national attention to the fact that all Canadians have an interest in the outcome of Muskrat Falls, from its failure to be consistent with the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the $9.2 billion in loan guarantees backstopping the project.

"With this megadam, the future in Labrador looks like the present in Ontario at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations, an act of genocide via mercury poisoning," says Behrens. "It is clear that Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people alike are being asked to accept the unacceptable: that their traditional food web will be poisoned, and their lands and waters will be turned into a national sacrifice zone. Our May 7 efforts are part of a lengthy campaign to say it's not too late to do what's right and shut this project down."

For further information and to arrange interviews with Elders Jim Learning and Eldred Davis, and other Labrador Land Protectors, contact:
Matthew Behrens, (613) 267-3998
Denise Cole, (709) 728-5007

Please share and look for the event closest to you

MAY 7th, 2018 National Day of Action to #ShutMuskratDown

OTTAWA: Parliament Hill Direct Action: Hear The Voices of Muskrat Falls
11am ET - Parliament Hill
More info:

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY: National Day of Action Gathering
11am AT - Hamilton River Rd (across from MP Jones office)
More info:

ST. JOHN'S: In Loving Memory: Nat'l Day of Action on Muskrat Falls
12pm NT - Harbourside Park (Water Street)
More info:

MISSISSAUGA: Carmel-Muskrat Alliance Walk 2018
8:30am & 9:50am ET - Mount Carmel Secondary School (outside main doors)
More Info:

WINNIPEG: Solidarity with Muskrat Falls
8am CT - Manitoba Hydro Building Back Courtyard (off Edmonton Street)
More info:

HALIFAX: Hear the Voices of Muskrat Falls! Solidarity Rally
12pm AT - Emera Inc (1233 Lower Water Street)
More info:

Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador are incredibly humbled and grateful to those who are responding in such a powerful way to our call for solidarity in a National Day of Action to #ShutMuskratDown in partnership with our allies at the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition!!

Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition
(613) 267-3998, (613) 300-9536

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Throwback Thursday Memory: Canadian Military Faces SNAG; 10 Arrested at Land Forces Central Area Command Headquarters Trying to Stop Canadian Participation in War Crimes

   Base Forced to Go on Lockdown by Small Group of International Law Upholders

Originally printed: March 24, 2003 Toronto--It really doesn't take that much to interfere with business as usual when war crimes are being committed.

The Canadian Military's Central Canada Command HQ was on full lockdown Monday, March 24 because of a major snag, courtesy of the Spring Nuremberg Action Group (SNAG). About 30 people from Homes not Bombs, Toronto Catholic Worker Community and other groups (minus the two painfully obvious undercover officers who attended our planning meeting-sorry guys, didn't quite work!) converged at the site of Canadian Forces Base Downsview around 12 noon. There they were met by scores of police fanned out across the base's main entrance, with police planted on the building's rooftop and across the front lawn in an apparent move to protect two tanks stationed in front of the military facility near Sheppard and Allen.

By day's end, the Canadian Forces felt so threatened by an attempt to hold them accountable to the laws of the international community that 10 people had been arrested, charged criminally with obstruction of police, and ordered not to be within 250 metres of any Canadian military facility.

The demonstration was an attempt to enter the facility with an urgent plea: that members of the Canadian Forces, to avoid being complicit with ongoing war crimes, had to immediately return from the Persian Gulf, and that any member of the Forces not there had to withdraw from any alliance or organization currently involved in the commission of war crimes against the people of Iraq, else they could face criminal charges before a war crimes tribunal.

This was not based on some pie-in-the-sky lefty fantasy; it was based clearly on the rights and obligations of ALL individuals, civilian or military, under the Nuremberg Principles and the Canadian War Crimes Act. Indeed, the Canadian Government's own explanation of war crimes complicity is brutally clear.

According to the Canadian (in)Justice Dept.'s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program, "A person is considered complicit if, while aware of the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the person contributes directly or indirectly to their occurrence. Membership in an organization responsible for committing the atrocities can be sufficient to establish complicity if the organization in question is one with a single brutal purpose, e.g. a death squad."

Indeed, the massed death squad currently invading and bombing Iraq is clearly involved in such crimes, and Canadians are participating in numerous ways: dozens of troops are "embedded" with U.S. and U.K. forces on the ground; dozens more remain at Central Command HQ in Doha, Qatar, where until very recently they were intimately involved in direct war planning; every time a cruise missile is launched from a U.S. warship, it is under the "protection" of three Canadian naval vessels with over 900 crew members aboard; Canadians are likely aboard the NATO equipment being used in the war, including the AWACS aerial command and control platforms from which many bombing runs (read acts of mass destruction) are coordinated; and money appears to have been set aside for sending CF-18 bombers to the region on short notice.

Given the serious consequences of such acts, we felt it our duty, in an act of solidarity with Canadian soldiers, to inform them of their rights and responsibilities, and to ensure that they disassociate themselves from any organization, including their employer, complicit in these crimes.

But an understanding of international and, often, Canadian law, is not something which is well known both to police and soldiers. Captain Daryl Caldwell of the military had been on standby to do a public relations wash over the group, which by this time had staged a die-in across the main entrance, chalking body outlines and anti-war slogans across the pavement, and tying peace symbols and slogans to the high barbed wire fence as police on rooftop took video and photographs. Caldwell explained his agreement that Canadians have a right to express "opinions," but we tried to explain that this was a matter of law, not opinion.

"I just have my orders to follow, and that's what I'm going to do," the friendly gentleman explained. We countered that this was exactly the response which was used by Germans during the post World War II Nuremberg Tribunal, where Principle IV of the eventual judgment clearly stated "the fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

Caldwell was an agreeable fellow, who painfully seemed to get what we were talking about. "In essence, what you guys are saying is that we should commit civil disobedience ourselves," he said at one point, to which we reminded him that such an act would not be disobeying, but an act of civil OBEDIENCE to a body of laws which exist to prevent war crimes.

Caldwell stated we could not meet with him on this day, especially inside the building, where we had no authorization. We showed copies of our authorization--the one from Nuremberg--but he would not budge.

After about 25 minutes of dialogue between SNAG members and the Captain, those with copies of the Nuremberg Principles continued to insist on entering the headquarters and addressing military personnel. We were told, again, that this was impossible, since the whole facility was on lockdown--no one in, no one out, a major snag for the military.

A group which included Raging Grannies, priests, and Dixie Chicks fans then approached one of two vehicular gates, where they were met with a line of squads cars and many police, who told us we were wasting our time, that our message had been heard, and that we must go home. We refused, because we had not gotten the military members to sign a Nuremberg Pledge not to engage in further acts or omissions which would make them culpable before the international legal community.

Feeling that the community of commuters which daily passes the major building on Sheppard perhaps also needed to see this message, we took out pieces of chalk and tried to walk to the front of the structure to begin writing out the Nuremberg Principles on the outer walls of 32 Brigade. We were again followed by a phalanx of police who also tried to be media consultants, explaining to us that we would lose media interest if we were arrested and that we would be hurt if we went any further.

This did not dim the goals of the group, who waded onto the soggy, muddy front area and continued trying to approach the building. Lines of police moved left and right trying to block the protesters, pushing them back, and forcing us to move further west along the site towards a long line of barricades, inexplicably placed halfway down the lawn.

It was an act of relentless persistence, of calmly but determinedly trying to breach the police line and approach the building with the urgent message of Nuremberg. With each effort blocked by police with outstretched arms and other officers grabbing us and shoving us back, we just continued seeking an opening.

By this point, some media were becoming hostile, some demanding to know why walking about in the muck had anything to do with the war against Iraq. "It is urgent that we as citizens ourselves not be complicit in war crimes; if we leave now, we will not have fulfilled our obligation to interfere with and stop the commission of war crimes," we explained.

Janis Dahl was the first arrested. She had tried to speak to an officer about his duties under the law but, hearing no response, moved to the next in line. By officer number three, she was simply grabbed and placed under arrest. Next in custody was Andrew Loucks, who hopped the barrier and sat down. He was then roughly laid out face down in the muck, a knee in his back and his right arm forced under his body by one officer while another officer demanded that Andrew place his right arm on his back.

The remainder of the group continued working to find an opening, and kept getting met by the roving line of police, who continued pushing us back. Eventually, though, the length of the property was too much for the police, and as police came in prepared to set up with dozens more medal barricades and reinforcements, we were able to breach the line. Subsequently arrested were Father Robert Holmes, Ron Panter and Maggie Panter, Matthew Behrens, Rob Shearer, Matthew Trowell, Donald Bonyer and Stephen Morris.

As the arrestees were driven off, the remainder of the group gathered at the main entrance and continued to keep the facility locked down, moving slowly, very slowly, to get their things and move into jail support mode.

All 10 were originally charged with trespassing, handcuffed and stuffed into a police wagon; by the time we were booked into 32 division, what could be known as the Fantino Effect came into play (Julian Fantino is the Toronto chief of police who last week called for a mandatory one-year prison sentence for ANYONE convicted of a demonstration-related offence, as well as for insurance deposits for any group holding a demo and the right of police to deny anyone a permit to hold a march or rally.)

The Fantino Effect is one more name for the criminalization of dissent. Indeed, what was in the end a simple matter of trespass got bumped into the criminal category as the hours in custody dragged on, and by the time of our release, some seven hours later, we were charged criminally, with "obstruction of a peace officer," an interesting charge considering who was obstructing the law on this day. Among the release conditions was an order not to attend within 250 metres of any war dept. facility across Canada, one which we will appeal in a bail review.

The condition was clearly aimed at us, given that we have frequently been at military facilities, both through the weekly Moss Park Armoury vigil and our recent mass sit-in at the Canadian War Dept. in Ottawa. While Homes not Bombs prepares for further direct action against war at the CANSEC weapons fair in Ottawa on April 10, its members are also now gearing up for a series of trials resulting from anti-war arrests, including three facing charges from a protest at military manufacturer Wescam (Burlington), to be tried on April 24, and 10 people facing charges from a protest at weaponsmaker Northrop Grumman (Toronto), to be tried on August 1. (Report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Monday, May 7, Parliament Hill: Rally and Nonviolent Civil Resistance (aka civil disobedience)

(Please share far and wide, and contact to get involved as a participant)

Parliament Hill Direct Action: Hear The Voices of Muskrat Falls

Monday, May 7, Parliament Hill: Rally and Nonviolent Civil Resistance (aka civil disobedience)

(Details on getting involved and how you can support at bottom of post)

"Help us stop an act of cultural genocide and prevent a potentially catastrophic dam break that could drown up to a thousand people downstream from Muskrat Falls in Labrador (traditional, unceded lands of the Innu and Inuit). This battle for our very lives can no longer be waged alone. Most of us in Labrador cannot go to Ottawa. We need your voices to help expose the major tragedy unfolding that there is still time to stop. Ensure the federal government sees our faces, hears our voices, and acts on our demands." – Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, February 21, 2018 (full callout statement at

The Muskrat Falls Megadam in Labrador threatens Indigenous people and settlers alike with methylmercury poisoning and mass drowning via catastrophic dam break. Their lives and their lands and waters, as well as all life forms in the area, have been turned into a national sacrifice zone that the Trudeau government is backing to the tune of $9.2 billion.

On Monday, May 7, the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition and Direct Action Muskrat (DAM) will hold a rally on Parliament Hill (traditional, unceded Algonquin territory) and an act of civil resistance (aka civil disobedience) from which individuals trained in nonviolence will nonviolently enter the Parliament building and place the names and faces and words of all those whose lives are at risk at Muskrat Falls on the desks of MPs in the House of Commons. These will be representative of the people from whom the government has failed to seek and obtain free, prior, and informed consent (as required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP). MPs who say they support UNDRIP must be confronted daily with the human face of an easily prevented act of cultural genocide that is sure to occur via methylmercury poisoning at the Muskrat Falls megadam.

The lines between the rally and those who may be at risk of arrest will be very clearly drawn. The action will, at the request of the Labrador Land Protectors, be rooted in a nonviolent approach described here:

Those attending the action are invited to take part in our Solidarity Connections Campaign, in which you will make the acquaintance via email and phone and learn first hand from a Labrador Land Protector what is happening on the ground in Labrador, so that this commitment is not just for one day, but an ongoing relationship that grows in strength as we get to know one another and move forward. To sign up for the Connections Campaign, please send an email to

ALSO, If you plan to be one of those who may be in a situation of facing potential arrest, please contact us as soon as possible at

This is an urgent act given that failure to stop this megadam comes with lethal consequences. It is also fitting because all other channels have been exhausted, from meetings with bureaucrats and Ministers to years of lobbying, petitioning, demonstrating, and civil disobedience in Labrador. After all this, the government still refuses to listen and act on the wishes of Labrador residents.

“People, law-abiding citizens, are being thrown in jail, incarcerated for no reason other than trying to protect our land, and the peoples, and the wildlife and the fish of the land."
– NunatuKavut Elder Eldred Davis, from his maximum security penitentiary cell, St. John's, NL, Summer, 2017

"They are trying to make criminals out of people who are trying to defend themselves from methylmercury poisoning of a thousands of year food supply that we’ve always relied on at a time when the rest of Canada is looking for food security. his government has decided that we don’t deserve that.” – NunatuKavut Elder James Learning, 79, from his maximum security penitentiary cell, St. John's, NL, Summer, 2017

"If one part of our culture is being threatened, and our lives are being threatened, how does one back down from that? I don’t know how we can. This fight has to stay ongoing. We have to encourage other land protectors now to step up to the plate, to start with their initial arrests... and just continue through this process – keep moving people through that court system, keep the light on this issue. That’s the only way we’re going to do it.” – Inuk Land Protector Marjorie Flowers, from her maximum security penitentiary cell, St. John's, NL, Summer, 2017

Getting Involved:

1. Attend the Ottawa rally. Let us know if you can make it and if you need a place to stay on the Sunday evening, May 6.

2. If you plan on being in a situation where you might be willing to risk arrest, please contact and let us know so we can discuss guidelines, training, etc.

3. Endorse this action by sending the name of your organization to

4. Join the Solidarity Connections Campaign and twin with a Labrador Land Protector.

5. Contribute to the costs of this action: Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0, and etransfers at can be accepted

6. Organize something in your own community that links to what is going on at Muskrat Falls. TD Bank is one of the biggest financial players supporting the project, so an information picket at a local branch, or at a federal government building, would be perfect. We can help you with ideas, handouts, etc.

Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador’s Call to Nonviolent Direct Action regarding Muskrat Falls for May 7th, 2018, Parliament Hill


We call all supporters to a national day of nonviolent direct action organized by the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (traditional, unceded Algonquin territory), on May 7th, 2018. Help us stop an act of cultural genocide and prevent a potentially catastrophic dam break that could drown up to a thousand people downstream from Muskrat Falls in Labrador (traditional, unceded lands of the Innu and Inuit).

Since 2011, Indigenous people and settlers have been victims of an undemocratic process that has allowed the Muskrat Falls mega-dam to be forced on us regardless of our grave concerns about its well-documented lethal effects. This includes methylmercury poisoning of our traditional food web and the daily threat of dam collapse.

Our fears are real; some of us go to sleep at night with life preservers under our beds. We live the despair of knowing our way of life that has existed for generations is being threatened. Justin Trudeau recently apologized for a past act of Labrador cultural genocide, yet his government supports this impending act of cultural genocide with a $9.2 billion federal investment.

Much of the resistance to the Muskrat Falls dam has taken place outside the national spotlight. Dozens of land protectors and riverkeepers in Labrador have been criminalized (and some, including Elders, jailed in maximum security penitentiaries) for peaceful acts of resistance and sacred ceremonies on traditional lands.

All calls for accountability, transparency, and respect have been ignored as this megaproject proceeds full speed ahead, doubling in a cost (now $12.7 billion) that will be borne by our province's poorest residents and next generations.

All possible political channels have been exhausted, from meetings with bureaucrats and Ministers to years of lobbying, petitioning, demonstrating, and civil disobedience in Labrador. Still the federal and provincial governments refuse to seek and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of all of us affected downstream.

Encouraged by the support of those who have heard our stories, we ask for you to join in the peaceful rally and civil resistance actions on May 7. We ask that as you bring our shared message to the heart of government in Ottawa, you respect our nonviolence basis of unity. This battle for our very lives can no longer be waged alone. Most of us in Labrador cannot go to Ottawa. We need your voices to help expose the major tragedy unfolding that there is still time to stop. Ensure the federal government sees our faces, hears our voices, and acts on our demands.

If you cannot get to Ottawa, please consider organizing a nonviolent direct action event in your community. Link your land and water concerns to ours. Together, we are stronger than the forces of greed and destruction that megaprojects like Muskrat Falls represent. Together, we protect for the next generations. Thanking you in advance.

In Solidarity,
Labrador Land Protectors, Contact: Denise Cole  
Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Contact: Roberta Frampton Benefiel

For nonviolence training and more information, contact the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition at

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Submission to the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project and the interpretation of Terms of Reference

Ontario Muskrat Solidarity Coalition
PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street
Perth, ON K7H 1R0
(613) 267-30998,

Submission to the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project and the interpretation of  Terms of Reference
                                                                                                                                                                  February 14, 2018

Commissioner Richard LeBlanc
5th Floor, Suite 502, Beothuk Building
20 Crosbie Place
St. John’s, NL  A1B 3Y8

Dear Commissioner LeBlanc,

The Ontario Muskrat Solidarity Coalition is a network of individuals and groups who, in working closely with the Labrador Land Protectors and the Grand Riverkeeper, engages in educational outreach and pubic advocacy regarding the major concerns that have been raised regarding the Muskrat Falls megaproject.

By way of introduction, our membership is composed of individuals who have developed close ties over many years with members of Nunatsiavut, Nunatukavut and the Innu Nation, as well as individuals who are members of those nations currently living outside of Labrador. While many Coalition members have long been involved in prioritizing Indigenous rights, newer members come to this work inspired by the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to seek right relations, as well as the legislative attempts to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP (Private Member’s Bill C-262, currently before Parliament).

Framework of the Inquiry and Multi-Lens Approach: UNDRIP, the Democratic Deficit, Consideration of a Terms of Reference Re-Set, and Grass Roots Voices
We wish to state at the outset our disappointment at the extremely limited terms of reference for this Inquiry, which appear slanted towards largely financial and technical considerations. While important inasmuch as the impact of the Muskrat Falls megaproject will be borne most by the poorest residents of the province, the terms of reference as currently written fail to incorporate the very human concerns raised by members of Indigenous nations, from the disappearance of sacred sites and the very real potential for destruction of a traditional food web that has existed since time immemorial to the well-established risk of mass drowning via catastrophic dam break.

While non-Indigenous Labradorians share similar concerns as well, our focus here is to urge this Inquiry to view its mandate through an UNDRIP lens. As a result, we urge this Inquiry to determine at the outset that its terms of reference require a complete re-set given the failure to properly consult Indigenous peoples about the terms of reference in an open, transparent fashion whereby all Indigenous peoples affected by the project would have been consulted prior to the Inquiry’s announcement. It would serve this Inquiry well to consider a re-set of the terms of reference following a consultation with Indigenous peoples from the grass roots Labrador Land Protectors and traditional decisionmakers to elected leadership. Nothing less is acceptable when a commitment to truth and reconciliation is supposed to be the basis of respectful nation-to-nation relationships. Failure by the NL government to properly consult Indigenous peoples regarding the terms of reference does not absolve the Commissioner of the same responsibility. Indeed, engaging in this consultation would not only show good faith on the part of the Inquiry, but also build some much-needed trust (and possibly avoid the delay caused by litigation challenging a failure to consult).

We also believe that the Inquiry must take note of and be informed by another lens, the democratic deficit which led to its creation in the first place. Throughout the history of the Muskrat Falls megaproject, issues of accountability, transparency, democratic decisionmaking – where they exist at all – have only come about as a result of intensive grass roots actions that have been met with draconian measures, from the criminalization and jailing of Labrador Land Protectors to the ongoing enforcement of a broad injunction. Indeed, the Independent Expert Advisory Committee (IEAC) exploring the issue of methylmercury poisoning, for example, only arose out of a painful hunger strike and peaceful occupation of the work site, among many other public actions. This proposed Inquiry needs to address the issues that have been raised by bloggers, land defenders, and concerned residents through tireless advocacy efforts. In addition, it is only as a result of proactive truth-seeking by individuals and non-governmental organizations that some of the documents that should be considered by this Inquiry – especially the engineering analyses by Stig Bernander on North Spur instability and methylmercury poisoning by Harvard University – were commissioned to assist in filling in the information gaps that the project proponents (Nalcor, government of Newfoundland and Labrador)  refused to adequately address.

In the above context, this Inquiry must prioritize those grass roots voices whose dedicated, persistent advocacy has made the Muskrat Falls megaproject the subject of an Inquiry in the first place: Indigenous Elders, Mud Lake flood victims, criminalized Land Protectors, concerned citizens fearful for their lives, and low-income individuals facing eviction in light of doubled or tripled hydro rates.

An Inquiry in a Vacuum
We are also disappointed that even though the language of some of the Terms of Reference clearly outlines some significant and urgent concerns raised by the Muskrat Falls megaproject, the Inquiry will be proceeding without a suspension of the project. We feel that the only way to build confidence in the Inquiry is to have construction halted pending the outcome of the Inquiry. While we understand it is beyond the Inquiry’s current mandate to call for a suspension of the project, we believe it is critical for the Inquiry to have as a core operating assumption that something is very wrong with a study whose recommendations will only likely be delivered at the completion of a project, despite the many risks still unaddressed by Nalcor and the provincial and federal governments. Those risks are real and pressing, from Indigenous people reliant on country food who are now fearful of being poisoned to Mud Lake residents fearful of another round of flash floods to anyone downstream who fails to comprehend how last week’s significant landslide can be dismissed by Nalcor as having no effect on or relation to the project.

How can this Inquiry proceed with confidence that its time is well-spent and its recommendations will be heeded if the project being studied continues to barrel ahead full steam, despite, among many, many unresolved issues, the uncontradicted findings of the Harvard methylmercury study, and the absence of a truly independent study on the instability of the North Spur?

To use an analogy that puts the Inquiry’s position into proper perspective: a train is racing down the track towards a cliff. Any objective observer can see the cliff, and the train’s driver is ignoring all the scientific evidence, engineering reports, and internal documents that predicted the train would run off the cliff if it were not stopped. One can either pull the brakes on the train to prevent the potential for catastrophe, or one can initiate a study on whether certain financial issues and decisionmaking that put the train in such peril in the first place was done without proper authorization or due diligence (as the train drives over the cliff).

The Muskrat Falls megadam is that train racing down the tracks. The human cost of this potential train wreck is beyond measure. The cloud of that uncertainty, that fear, that despair, hangs over this Inquiry as long as the project being studied does not apply the brakes pending your findings. The failure of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to exercise the precautionary principle in this instance (applying the brakes) when the mounting evidence screams out for it, creates a metaphoric framework of futility for the Inquiry that could very much discourage participation from those who see no point in taking part when it would appear the outcome of the project is now a fait accompli and the work of this Inquiry mere window dressing that may be useful for future scholars of poor decisionmaking.

Critically, if the Terms of Reference are indeed subject to the much-needed re-set through an UNDRIP lens as stated above, part of that new mandate could very well consider the need for a suspension of operations based on compelling evidence and justified by the much-needed application of the precautionary principle.

In any event, another lens through which this Inquiry must interpret its terms in as broad and generous a fashion as possible is that of the precautionary principle, a touchstone of environmental law and a norm of customary international law, as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada (114957 Canada Ltée (Spraytech, Société d'arrosage) v. Hudson (Town), [2001] 2 SCR 241), in which it referenced the Bergen Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development (1990) and declared:
Scholars have documented the precautionary principle’s inclusion “in virtually every recently adopted treaty and policy document related to the protection and preservation of the environment” (D. Freestone and E. Hey, “Origins and Development of the Precautionary Principle”, in D. Freestone and E. Hey, eds., The Precautionary Principle and International Law (1996), at p. 41. As a result, there may be “currently sufficient state practice to allow a good argument that the precautionary principle is a principle of customary international law” (J. Cameron and J. Abouchar, “The Status of the Precautionary Principle in International Law”, in ibid., at p. 52). See also O. McIntyre and T. Mosedale, “The Precautionary Principle as a Norm of Customary International Law” (1997), 9 J. Env. L. 221, at p. 241 (“the precautionary principle has indeed crystallised into a norm of customary international law”).  

In order to achieve sustainable development, policies must be based on the precautionary principle. Environmental measures must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.” (emphasis added)
The threat of serious and/or irreversible damage is already well-documented with respect to methylmercury poisoning and North Spur instability, from the original joint provincial/federal panel through the Harvard and Bernander studies. The Inquiry cannot proceed without a serious recognition of this threat, which is why our call for a re-set for the Terms of Reference following proper consultation with all affected Indigenous peoples, and a subsequent suspension of operations at the Muskrat Falls megaproject pending a re-set Inquiry’s findings, would make the most sense, and dovetail with the need to respect the precautionary principle.
Lack of Proper, Ongoing Consultation
In addition, NL and Nalcor’s consultation with Indigenous peoples appears to have been based on an impoverished definition of “consult” ( see The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Aboriginal Consultation Policy on Land and Resource Development Decisions, April, 2013) that fails the well-established test of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in seeking free, prior, and informed consent, and in recognizing that consent is not a fait accompli, but rather part of a process of ongoing dialogue and negotiation that allows for change of circumstances, introduction of new information, and the ability of Indigenous people to withdraw consent.
The provincial government’s policy statement declares “NL desires a practical consultation process that helps to ensure that land and resource development decisions minimize or, where reasonably practicable, eliminate potentially adverse impacts on asserted rights. NL also aims to maintain, foster and improve effective working relationships among Aboriginal organizations, project proponents and NL.” The experiences of Indigenous-led groups such as the Labrador Land Protectors can attest to the fact that this policy statement has been consistently violated over the past half decade, whether through a persistent refusal to meet and meaningfully address concerns, the criminalization of peaceful acts of land protection, the judicial stifling of voices of opposition, and policies that fail to eliminate adverse impacts.

Critically, among NL’s guiding principles, #10 states: This Policy and any form of Aboriginal consultation conducted by NL or its delegates, does not constitute acceptance or recognition of asserted rights. The process of consultation does not create any Aboriginal or treaty rights.”

The provincial government’s consultation is not meant to achieve consent and a harmonious working relationship; it is simply to take into consideration certain views without providing Indigenous people a say in the final outcome of the project. This Inquiry, in dealing with Indigenous issues, must employ the broader and more generous lens of consultation and consent as provided by UNDRIP.

Given the manner in which this Inquiry has been limited in terms of scope, as well as the questionable utility of its findings given that there has been no suspension of construction pending tour conclusions, we are calling upon you to interpret the terms of reference in as broad and generous a manner as possible to allow for the inclusion of voices that appear to have been excluded from the Terms of Reference. Toward that end, we are calling on you to re-set the Terms of Reference after engaging in a proper, UNDRIP-informed consultation with those Indigenous voices who have clearly not been heard, as evidenced by the limited consideration they are given under the current framework. As currently set out, the Terms of Reference appear to be flawed by an apparent apprehension of bias that favours and limits the potential liability of the government which called the Inquiry and set those terms absent proper consultation with all affected parties.

Recommendation 1: We believe the Commissioner must agree to a re-set of the terms of Reference, and should engage in a process of UNDRIP-informed deep consultations with Indigenous peoples at all levels (from elected leadership to grass roots land defenders, elders and traditional decisionmakers) to ensure that concerns specific to their lives (and the serious, multiple threats posed to their lives by the Muskrat Falls megaproject) are included in the Terms of Reference for this Inquiry. The lens of UNDRIP (as elucidated in part below) will be of assistance in this regard, as will current Canadian and international jurisprudence with respect to the duty to consult and to seek free, prior, and informed consent.

Recommendation 2: We believe the Commissioner should broadly and generously interpret Section 5 (“participation in the Inquiry by the established leadership of Indigenous people, whose settled or asserted Aboriginal or treaty rights to areas in Labrador may have been adversely affected by the Muskrat Falls Project”) to include any and all members of Indigenous nations affected by the project, and not simply those who hold elected positions. We also believe that this same principle of inclusion should be extended to the voices of non-Indigenous Labrador residents affected by this project. This recommendation may well inform the Commissioner’s response to Recommendation #1.

Such consideration must include a view of all aspects of the Muskrat Falls megaproject through an UNDRIP lens. This should include consulting experts on UNDRIP, as well as exploring the failure of the NL government, the federal government, and NALCOR to recognize the obvious trigger points for deep consultation not just with Indigenous government leaders, but with traditional decisionmakers as well as those voices of the Labrador Land Protectors whose views have not been properly represented by their governments. The Commissioner must question whether all Indigenous people affected were allowed an open, transparent process to achieve free, prior and informed consent not only at the project’s outset, but throughout its development as it continues to proceed through the life of the Inquiry.

The Commissioner must hear from the voices of Indigenous people who feel that their voices have not been properly consulted not only by the NL and NALCOR, but by their own leadership as well. It should also consider the very real possibility that the effects of the Muskrat Falls megaproject could result in an act of genocide, as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Article 2b, “Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”; 2c, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”; 2d, “(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”.) While the Genocide Convention speaks of deliberate action, an argument could well be made that willful blindness to the effects and consequences of one’s actions, especially in light of compelling evidence of impending harm, does not provide immunity from liability.

The Inquiry should also consider how the longstanding legacies of colonialism and settler-state divide-and-rule policies have been used to silence particular voices in communities that would otherwise be speaking out.

Where the potential infringement of asserted Indigenous rights is high and the risk of non-compensable damage is similarly significant, deep consultation aimed at finding a satisfactory interim solution is required. Consultation must be a meaningful dialogue. But neither should Indigenous people be obliged to participate in a process that does not allow for a good faith attempt for the parties to understand one another's concerns. Deep consultation includes the opportunity to make submissions, formal participation in the decision-making process and the provision of written reasons to show that Indigenous concerns were considered and the impact they had on the decision. Responsiveness is a key requirement of both consultation and accommodation.

Despite the legal obligation for the Crown to consult with Indigenous peoples when contemplating or undertaking activities that may affect their rights, Nalcor, NL and the federal government  have specifically excluded certain groups of Indigenous people from any ongoing consultation, even though they are owed the duty to consult in good faith.

The Inquiry must hear directly from witnesses who can attest to the failure of the provincial government of NL, NALCOR, and the federal government to engage in deep, ongoing consultation.

As a means of helping answer some of these probing questions, the Inquiry needs to respect the underlying purposes of UNDRIP, including, but not limited to:
Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent
rights of Indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic
and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions,
histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands,
territories and resources,

Convinced that control by Indigenous peoples over developments
affecting them and their lands, territories and resources will enable
them to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures and traditions,
and to promote their development in accordance with their
aspirations and needs.

The Commissioner also needs to hear from affected individuals to determine how the following, non-exhaustive articles of UNDRIP have been violated by NL, Nalcor (and, by extension, the federal government, the biggest financial player in Muskrat Falls). Should the Inquiry consider the use of an UNDRIP lens, further assistance can be provided with expert witnesses to explore issues of consent through Canadian and international jurisprudential contexts for which space considerations here do not presently allow.

Article 7: Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.

Article 8: (1) Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. (2.) States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities.”

Article 11 (1.) Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.”

Article 18: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decisionmaking institutions.

Article 25: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

Article 32: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

Recommendation 3
The whole of this Inquiry must ask why the precautionary principle did not seem to be applied as the project was approved and went forth, especially in light of the NL government and Nalcor’s collective failure to institute the findings and recommendations of the joint provincial panel, SNC-Lavalin’s own internal analysis, the Harvard and Bernander studies, and other assorted reports that were inevitably commissioned by citizens themselves when the proponent and its supporters failed to provide proper analysis and justification for key decisions. The Inquiry must determine whether this failure to apply the precautionary principle has unnecessarily placed Indigenous and non-Indigenous lives in jeopardy.

As noted above, the Inquiry must undertake a re-set of the Terms of Reference that includes a proper, UNDRIP-informed consultation with all Indigenous peoples affected by the Muskrat Falls megaproject.  As part of a re-set, this Inquiry must consider the need to press for a suspension of construction at the Muskrat Falls megaproject pending the outcome of the Inquiry’s findings, whose utility becomes questionable should constructed not be halted.

The Inquiry must approach all of the issues within its current (and hopefully re-set) mandate – and also provide a generous and broad interpretation of those terms – with a multi-lens approach that incorporates questions about compliance with UNDRIP principles and the failure to proceed with the precautionary principle as a foundational operating guide; that considers expanding as widely as possible to include the Indigenous and non-Indigenous grass roots voices who have been ignored and cast aside as a result of the NL government’s and NALCOR’s democratic deficit; and that considers seriously and, where possible, acts upon the political conundrum in which it finds itself studying a project that is likely to reach a completion stage that, absent a suspension of operations, will mean the Inquiry’s recommendations may have no beneficial effect or positive impact.
Submitted by

Matthew Behrens
Ontario Muskrat Solidarity Coalition