“The recent incarceration of three Labrador Land Protectors is a reflection not on our criminal justice system, but on the political leadership in our province,” Earle McCurdy says of this week’s jailing of another 3 Land Protectors who were peacefully protesting the Muskrat Falls project.
The 3 land protectors, Jim Learning, Eldred Davis, and Marjorie Flowers, are not due back in court until July 31st. For now they are being detained at Her Majesty’s penitentiary. Two of them are in a cell together, while Flowers is in a separate cell with a stranger for a cellmate.
“These three people are not dangerous criminals,” McCurdy says. “They are Inuit elders who believe so strongly in protecting the environment and public safety in the land they call home, that they were willing to go to jail to do so.”
McCurdy adds that, “Jailing elders does not in any way address the environment, economic or health and safety problems associated with the Muskrat Falls project,” which is a solid point, hence public outrage that we’re throwing peaceful protestors in prison.
McCurdy feels quite strongly that this did not need to happen, and says it speaks to “the lack of meaningful commitment on the part of the provincial government to the nation-to-nation relationship model.”
He says the three demands at the root of the Labrador Land Protectors’ recent protest action are clear and reasonable.
“They’re demanding an independent expert review of the stability (or otherwise) of the North Spur. Who amongst us would not demand answers when a number of experts have identified serious risks to safety and wellbeing?”
He notes that this concern has only been amplified by the recent unprecedented flooding that caused such devastation in Mud Lake.
“The Land Protectors want action on the expert advisory committee on methylmercury that the Premier promised at his marathon meeting with indigenous leaders last fall. When the Premier of the province makes such a high-profile public commitment affecting the public health of citizens and communities, it is not unreasonable to expect prompt action.”
The third demand of the Labrador Land Protectors is for a public inquiry and forensic audit of Nalcor.
“Many have called for this, including myself as leader of the New Democratic Party, McCurdy says. “The Liberals say vaguely that it might happen someday, but their plan to wait until the Muskrat Falls project is completed is a total failure of leadership.”
He says the Liberal Government’s claim that an audit would unduly disrupt project completion “is nonsense,” and that the urgency of the situation “demands timely action.”
McCurdy states that the elders deserve the support of all citizens of our province, and they deserve the immediate attention of the provincial government to their eminently reasonable demands. “We should all be concerned that these three elders are in jail because they don’t see the political leaders of our province acting to protect the Labrador environment and the health and safety of Labradorians.”