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‘Not going to change’

A group of people from Happy Valley-Goose Bay took part in a ‘vigil walk’ to the North Spur at the Muskrat Falls site on July 18, to pay tribute to Muskrat Falls before construction of the hydroelectric project is complete.
A group of people from Happy Valley-Goose Bay took part in a ‘vigil walk’ to the North Spur at the Muskrat Falls site on July 18, to pay tribute to Muskrat Falls before construction of the hydroelectric project is complete.

Some residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay recently paid tribute to Muskrat Falls before construction of the hydroelectric project is complete.

About 20 people took part in a vigil walk to the North Spur site at Muskrat Falls on July 18,

to pay respect to the land and water.

The walkers trekked to the site despite the ‘no trespassing’ signs located at the entrance of the project off the Trans Labrador Highway.

Organizer Denise Cole said it was important for her to pay her respects and perform a ceremony and tribute to Muskrat Falls.

“I wanted to perform ceremony by offering tobacco and prayers to the falls at least one last time and to walk the lands of my ancestors while I still could,” said Cole. “I accomplished that goal with this walk.”

Cole noted when Nalcor put up the notice this past winter that the public was no longer allowed back on site, she knew an opportunity was needed to allow people to pay tribute to the river and to have at least one more opportunity to visit the falls itself.

“I believe the purpose for others going on the walk was varied — to visit once more, to give silent protest to the project, to view the destruction first hand, and many other reasons that only they can speak to,” she said.

Many of the walkers were emotional. James (Jim) Learning, an activist who has been involved in several Muskrat Falls protests, said he feels “defeated.”

“For me it’s kind of a low point because it means we’re taking the last walk to look at (the falls) . . . instead of having 200 people here to invade them and run them off forever, I have to walk here and accept it; this is not going to change,” said Learning. “This misery is going to endure, people are going to lose their money, their shirts…on this project.

“Truthfully, it almost is like admitting defeat.”

About 20 people took part in a vigil walk to the North Spur site at Muskrat Falls on July 18,

to pay respect to the land and water.

The walkers trekked to the site despite the ‘no trespassing’ signs located at the entrance of the project off the Trans Labrador Highway.

Organizer Denise Cole said it was important for her to pay her respects and perform a ceremony and tribute to Muskrat Falls.

“I wanted to perform ceremony by offering tobacco and prayers to the falls at least one last time and to walk the lands of my ancestors while I still could,” said Cole. “I accomplished that goal with this walk.”

Cole noted when Nalcor put up the notice this past winter that the public was no longer allowed back on site, she knew an opportunity was needed to allow people to pay tribute to the river and to have at least one more opportunity to visit the falls itself.

“I believe the purpose for others going on the walk was varied — to visit once more, to give silent protest to the project, to view the destruction first hand, and many other reasons that only they can speak to,” she said.

Many of the walkers were emotional. James (Jim) Learning, an activist who has been involved in several Muskrat Falls protests, said he feels “defeated.”

“For me it’s kind of a low point because it means we’re taking the last walk to look at (the falls) . . . instead of having 200 people here to invade them and run them off forever, I have to walk here and accept it; this is not going to change,” said Learning. “This misery is going to endure, people are going to lose their money, their shirts…on this project.

“Truthfully, it almost is like admitting defeat.”

Dianne Climenhage wanted to see Muskrat Falls up close for the first time.

“I want to be here because I know it’s an issue in the community that’s caused a lot of upset and hard feelings, and it’s changed the community by having such a large project so close,” she said. “I really just want to see it up close myself, so I can better understand the issues happening in town.”

Jamie Skidmore wanted to take pictures and video of the site. He, like the other vigil walkers, is against the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

 

“I always though the Muskrat Falls project was a really bad idea, especially in this day and age where there are many alternative power choices like wind power and solar power,” said Skidmore. “Why we are investing so much money in hydroelectricity in this day and age is really beyond me.”

Because the North Spur site is restricted, Nalcor requested the vigil walkers take a bus that the crown corporation provided. The vigil walkers, however, declined.

“Nalcor presented Jim (Learning) with a letter and requested that we either a) not do the walk at all for safety concerns of the equipment and work happening, or b) let them take us in a bus to two site locations,” explained Cole.

“We declined on both options and walked. Security followed us down and back, when we went off their road and down the bank to the falls they brought in the RCMP and filmed us pretty much the entire time.  (There were) no confrontations.”

Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor vice president of the Lower Churchill Project, told The Labradorian the vigil walk forced a shutdown of construction at the North Spur.

“Prior to the vigil walk, and when the individuals showed up at the North Spur construction site on July 18, Nalcor implored the individuals to respect the site access limitation and asked people not to put their own life at risk and risk the safety and lives of others,” said Bennett. “Once on the North Spur construction site individuals on the Vigil walk were also advised that they were trespassing.
“To help ensure the safety of the walkers and workers, and to ensure construction work activity on the North Spur continued without disruption, Nalcor offered Individuals a safe travel route across the North Spur,” he continued.

“The individuals who took part in the vigil walk refused this offer. The result was a significant disruption to the work activity and an early shut down of the North Spur construction activities. This has led to a loss of work productivity and ultimately an increase in project costs, which will ultimately be borne by the electricity rate payers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Given that the individuals who took part in the vigil walk at the North Spur on Saturday, July 18 were trespassing, the RCMP were called to monitor and document the illegal activity.”

 

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