N.L. premier raps threats to hydro project
Newfoundland will not be swayed by threats to shut down the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Thursday.
“Newfoundland and Labrador is not going to be bullied into any kind of agreement with anybody,” Dunderdale said at a meeting of Canada’s premiers in Halifax.
On Wednesday, the leader of the NunatuKavut told The Chronicle Herald that the aboriginal group will shut down the project if the Newfoundland government refuses to negotiate compensation. The NunatuKavut say the development intrudes on their territory.
The NunatuKavut identify as 6,000 Inuit in southern Labrador, but the federal government does not recognize them as an official aboriginal group.
Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut community council, said the group will do everything in its power, including physically disrupting construction at Lower Churchill, to ensure its rights are respected.
Russell, the former Liberal MP for Labrador, said Dunderdale is putting the project at risk by refusing to work with the NunatuKavut.
Dunderdale refused to back down Thursday. She said Ottawa would have to recognize the group before the province would enter into any negotiations.
“Mr. Russell and his group need to first finish their consultation with the federal government,” the premier said. “If they are given status by the federal government and are entitled to a land claim, we will sit with them and negotiate a land claim.”
Newfoundland and Labrador has already worked out a deal with the Innu, an aboriginal group with a government-recognized land claim around the Churchill River.
Dunderdale said she expects a legal agreement to be signed “very soon” between Nova Scotia Power and Nalcor, the Newfoundland power utility, for developing the hydro project.
Nova Scotia Power is building a $1.2-billion subsea cable between the two provinces to receive electricity from Lower Churchill when the project is up and running.