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Canada Muskrat Falls deal 'betrayed the Innu people' says Innu Nation

01:17  04 august  2021
01:17  04 august  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

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Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich. SaltWire Network File Photo. SHESHATSHIU, N.L. — The Innu Nation is demanding the public release of the agreement in principle between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador regarding Muskrat Falls rate mitigation. “They are spending billions of dollars in public money. I don’t see any reason for them to be so secretive about it. I don’t know what they have to hide,” Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich stated in the release. Rich referred to a 14-page PowerPoint document given to the media at a technical briefing as the only information made

Lethbridge says that he and other protesters were betrayed by their Indigenous leaders, who did not consult them. Innu Nation and NunatuKavut Community Council were not available for comment In December 2017, Russell signed an million deal with Nalcor for future development on land that The Indigenous people protesting Muskrat Falls ’ construction are facing legal consequences for their

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Etienne Rich, grand chief of the Innu Nation, says he will not meet with Premier Andrew Furey until Furey agrees to Innu Nation's requests in writing. © Mark Quinn/CBC Etienne Rich, grand chief of the Innu Nation, says he will not meet with Premier Andrew Furey until Furey agrees to Innu Nation's requests in writing.

The Innu Nation is accusing the prime minister and Newfoundland and Labrador's premier of betrayal over last week's rate-mitigation agreement.

Last Wednesday the federal and provincial governments reached a $5.2-billion deal which will prevent electricity bills on the island from spiking when the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is commissioned this fall.

The deal involves a combination of new money and refinancing arrangements, with promises to reduce the province's cost of financing its debt on the over-budget project.

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The Innu Nation said in a release Tuesday it has been left in the dark about any rate mitigation announcement today, despite being assured it would be kept in the loop and despite the impact on its people of past energy agreements, such as the 1969 Churchill Falls deal with Quebec. "This time, unlike 1969, our voices will be heard and our rights will be respected," the release said . "Our land is not a commodity to be sold to solve (Newfoundland and Labrador's) economic crisis." The Churchill Falls project resulted in a massive flooding of traditional Innu territory, eliminating travel routes, hunting

Grand Chief of the Innu Nation Etienne Rich told SaltWire just after the announcement July 28 that his people are concerned over the lack of consultation with them and the potential consequences it will have on the Impact Benefit Agreement. “The premier of Newfoundland is a very dishonest person to the Innu people ,” he said . Rich said he met with Premier Andrew Furey in June and at that time was told the Innu Nation would be kept appraised of any developments, so they were very surprised to discover yesterday the Prime Minister would be in town to make an announcement on Muskrat Falls .

Innu Nation was immediate to point out its disappointment with the agreement shortly after the announcement was made, saying it wasn't consulted when hashing out the details, and fears its benefits from the project will be lost.

On Tuesday Innu Nation was vocal about its disappointment once again, saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Andrew Furey "betrayed the Innu people."

"We need to be informed, and we need to be sitting at the table when they have the discussions about rate mitigation," Etienne Rich, grand chief of Innu Nation, told CBC News.

"Justin Trudeau and Premier Furey need to put that in their heads, that that project is there now because we had the consent to that project. If there's no Innu consent in that project there would be no Muskrat Falls."

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Innu Nation leaders announced Tuesday they're seeking damages over the destruction of their land and culture from construction of the Churchill Falls generating station decades ago. The Innu Nation announced its billion statement of claim Tuesday at a news conference, where community leaders said their people have lived with anger, hurt and loss for decades, since construction began in 1967. That construction, which continued into the mid-'70s, backed by the power utilities of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, led to subsequent flooding of ancestral lands, Innu Nation leaders said .

The Innu approve of the wetlands capping, but not the soil removal. According to estimates from SNC-Lavalin, the cost to remove the soil would be anywhere from 9 million to 2 million — on top of a project that is already billions over budget. "It is a high cost, but that's something you'd have to ask He also noted the information in the report isn't a surprise, as the provincial government had a non-voting position on the committee. His next move will be to meet with committee chair Kenneth Reimer. Muskrat Falls on Innu land. "It's very preliminary to say what the government's position is on it, but

Innu Nation said when it voted on whether to sign its Impacts and Benefits Agreement (IBA) in 2011 it made the "difficult decision" to consent to the Muskrat Falls project for compensation for impacts on its Aboriginal rights.

Rich said it appears Innu Nation won't see any benefits from the project after Wednesday's deal was reached.

"Trudeau threw Newfoundland a life-preserver but is letting the Innu sink. Canada and the province are shifting the costs overruns of the project onto Innu Nation because they think they can get away with it," he said.

"Canada made a deliberate choice to help the province at the Innu's expense. The Innu people will not stand for this."

Innu Nation agreed to the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls project in the 2008 Tshash Petapen (New Dawn) Agreement and the 2011 IBA. Under the IBA, according to Innu Nation, it's entitled to either 5 per cent of the cash flow from the project after payment of debt once power is being sold commercially, or to a minimum payment, whichever is greater.

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Police said the 28 people , from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Cartwright, Sheshatshiu, Northwest River, Rigolet, Port Hope Simpson and Benoit's Cove, are set to appear in court in April. "The RCMP respects and protects the right to peaceful demonstrations as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the police force said in a Protests against the Muskrat Falls megaproject intensified in October. The month saw a hunger strike, marches, a blockade and an occupation of the work camp inside the Muskrat Falls site. That was despite a court order that barred protesters from the work site.

Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee (CUE'-pea) says Nalcor has agreed to more talks on whether a benefits deal to help qualified Innu workers land jobs has been fulfilled. Small groups of protesters interrupted work at Muskrat Falls in recent days but Nalcor says contractors are now recalling staff. RCMP say a 23-year-old Goose Bay man is charged with assault in connection with an incident August 9 at the project site.

Now, according to Innu Nation, the terms of the agreement in principal between Canada and N.L. indicate the project could be operated on a "breakeven basis going forward."

Innu Nation said it repeatedly requested information about how the rate mitigation deal could affect its IBA, but added it was shut out.

In a letter to Furey on Tuesday, Rich said Innu Nation received the call the night before the announcement was made saying a deal was reached. Rich said Innu Nation was only able to secure a copy of the agreement two days later "after having to beg for it."

Owing instead of receiving

Innu Nation said a preliminary review of the agreement shows "there may no longer be any profit from the project and therefore no benefit to Innu Nation."

The group said if there are no profits in 30 years, instead of any benefits, Innu Nation could be stuck with $300 million of debt owing to the province. Innu Nation said it understands the need for rate mitigation to help everyone in the province, but added "there is no justification for making the Innu bear the costs of cost overruns that they had no control over." .

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"I think that it's very disrespectful not to be part of the discussions between Canada and Newfoundland. I think it's very important that Innu Nation is supposed to be sitting at the table," said Rich.

In a letter to Furey on Tuesday, Rich told the premier he did not have to keep Innu Nation out of discussions with non-disclosure agreements. Rich said Innu Nation is fully capable of signing and abiding by NDAs.

"The lack of consultation with Innu Nation in the development of this AIP, who the province cheerfully likes to refer to as a partner in the project when it is politically expedient, is appalling. The anger amongst our Innu people at your government's actions is mounting, premier," Rich wrote.

Justin Trudeau wearing a suit and tie: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey spoke briefly Wednesday to say the two sides have reached a deal on Muskrat Falls to stave off stark financial implications for the province. © CBC Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey spoke briefly Wednesday to say the two sides have reached a deal on Muskrat Falls to stave off stark financial implications for the province.

Further, Rich said Innu Nation will not participate in weekly Indigenous roundtable talks with Furey until the province has taken concrete steps to remedy "dishonourable conduct toward the Innu in relation to this rate mitigation AIP."

He said those talks are about "small gestures the province is considering taking in your window-dressing efforts towards reconciliation."

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Innu Nation is calling on Furey and Trudeau to reconsider the Muskrat Falls agreement and do three things:

  • Provide immediate access, by Aug. 6, to the detailed financial modelling for the Muskrat Falls project, which is necessary for the Innu Nation to begin assessing the impacts of the agreement on its IBA.
  • Commit to revising the agreement, to ensure that the final rate mitigation agreements maintain the benefits in the IBA when it was negotiated on the basis that the Innu would receive a reasonable rate of return as one would expect in a regulated environment, as had been promised to the Innu.
  • Provide Innu Nation a seat at the negotiating table to ensure that Canada and the province keep their commitments.

No meetings

In Rich's letter he said Furey has been asking for a meeting with him since the news of this Muskrat Falls agreement was released. He said he will not be meeting with Furey until Furey agrees to Innu Nation's requests in writing.

Rich said he's hoping to have a response by the end of the week.

During Wednesday's announcement, when asked about Innu Nation's immediate frustration, Furey said, "I'm sure they will be more happy as more details become available to them."

CBC News has requested comment from Furey, but was instead given a statement from Indigenous Affairs Minister Lisa Dempster.

Dempster said the province is committed to reconciliation and highly values its relationship with the Innu and all Indigenous groups.

"We have made great strides together over the last year," she said.

Further, Dempster said the commitments contained within the IBA with the Innu Nation will be honoured, adding it was not changed as a result of Wednesday's agreement in principle. She said the provincial government has communicated that with the Innu Nation and "remains open and available to discussions with the Innu Nation."

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