Innu leader calls for end to Muskrat Falls protests
Muskrat Falls, on the Churchill River in Labrador, is shown in a Februrary 2011 file photo. (Paul Daly / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, August 17, 2015 5:59PM EDT
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. -- An Innu leader is asking that protests stop at the Muskrat Falls hydro construction site in Labrador while complaints about hiring and alleged racism are discussed.
Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee said Monday the head of Crown corporation Nalcor Energy has apologized for an incident involving an Innu worker.
She said Nalcor President and CEO Ed Martin has also committed to followup talks "in coming days." Discussions are to include dissatisfaction with aboriginal employment rates on the $8.6-billion project along with concerns about racially-motivated clashes among staff.
"We're certainly committed to moving forward and working on the issues that we need to address," Qupee said in an interview. "We've requested that the protests should stop."
Nalcor Energy declined Monday to comment.
Qupee said about 218 Innu Nation people are working at the dam and power plant being built on the lower Churchill River. But there are questions about whether Nalcor has lived up to the Impacts and Benefits Agreement reached as part of the development's approval. Part of the deal's intent is to help ensure qualified aboriginal people land jobs.
Qupee said small protests last week at Muskrat Falls work sites followed reports that a non-Innu worker assaulted a young Innu man also employed on the project. She confirmed the accused employee has been fired after allegedly making racist comments and then retaliating when a formal complaint was filed.
"That's what we've been told. I'm glad that Mr. Ed Martin came in and apologized to this young man," she said of the worker who was allegedly kicked in the head. He is now recovering and is expected to return to his job later this month.
"I appreciate that he (Martin) went out to the site and spoke to the elders there," she added. "We certainly don't want anybody else to go through this."
RCMP say a 23-year-old Goose Bay man faces an assault charge in connection with an incident Aug. 9 at the Muskrat Falls site. He is to appear in provincial court Oct. 14 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Qupee said members of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and Mushuau Innu First Nation were also present for meetings with Martin that lasted all day Sunday and well into the evening. She said the highest number of Innu workers employed at Muskrat Falls so far was about 278, and that leaders have heard of other racist incidents involving "non-Innu" employees.
"We know for sure we need to improve things."
Muskrat Falls is expected to produce first power in late 2017.