SHESHATSHIU, NL – Labrador Innu leaders question Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner about statements made with respect to the Muskrat Falls Project.
In a report released on Jun 6th, 2019 following Tuncak’s visit to Canada, May 24 – June 6, 2019, Mr. Tuncak directly addressed the Muskrat Falls Project. Mr. Tuncak, however, did not speak with Innu Nation leadership before writing his report – the nation on whose land the project is located.
Gregory Rich, Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, said “We would have expected the Special Rapporteur to inform himself adequately when reporting about human rights impacts of the Muskrat Falls Project on the Indigenous people who are most impacted by the project, the Innu.” “He reports there were concerns that the two First Nations in Labrador were not meaningfully consulted” said Grand Chief Rich, “but he did not even speak with the only First Nation in Labrador.”
Deputy Grand Chief Etienne Rich said, “Mr. Tuncak rightly speaks about the need to consult, yet it is he who has not consulted. Furthermore it appears he has assumed that we did not examine environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project on our people – he is gravely mistaken and his preliminary report must be corrected.” The Innu Nation is the only recognized Indigenous rights holders in the area where the Muskrat Falls Project is constructed.
The Innu Nation negotiated an Impacts and Benefits Agreement with Nalcor Energy for the mega-project following extensive consultation with its membership in both Sheshatshiu and Natuashish. Innu Nation has publicly stated its concern with the recommendation of the Independent Expert Advisory Committee (IEAC) for full soil removal at the Muskrat Falls reservoir. Independent scientific review of the full soil removal option caused 4 out of 6 scientists on the IEAC to not support this recommendation. Its implementation has the potential to cause greater harm to the local environment and local food sources, and it is a risky experiment that might actually result in an increase in methyl mercury levels.
The Innu Nation has written to the Special Rapporteur to seek an acknowledgement that his preliminary report was ill-informed on this matter, as he did not consult with Innu Nation before reporting on other’s concerns and allegations. Nearly 2,000 Innu Nation members (two-thirds of the Innu Nation membership) live near the Muskrat Falls site, a project located on Innu traditional territory.