It has been a difficult few weeks for the people of Labrador. The protests against the Lower Churchill hydroelectric development at Muskrat Falls over the presence of methylmercury in the waters of the reservoir mounted to the point that protesters eventually entered the site and most of the work was shut down. The news this morning that there is an agreement to deal with the risk of methylmercury following a marathon meeting of the protest leaders – Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe, Innu Nation Grand Chief Anastasia Qupee, NunatuKavut Community Council President Todd Russell – and the Provincial Premier Dwight Ball is welcome. This was a good evening’s work for all involved and they are all to be commended. But the path to this outcome has been fraught with wrong turns. It should never have come to this conflict in the first place.
The risk of methylmercury has been known for a long time now. When land is flooded for reservoir creation without first removing the vegetation and topsoil methylmercury concentrations rise in the water and enter the aquatic food chain. It is a health risk for all living things and will eventually find its way into the people who eat fish affected by the toxin. And yet despite all of this there were no plans to remove all of the vegetation and topsoil within the reservoir but only a commitment to partial clearing despite recommendations for complete removal. Following the meeting of leaders last night it appears that a more complete clearing will now happen. All who were at the meeting seem satisfied with this outcome but the real winners in all of this are the people of Labrador who would have been most affected by the environmental damage. This agreement is about the health of all who live in Labrador.
As one who lived and worked in Labrador and who continues to visit as the Bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador I don’t think I have ever seen the people more united. That unity crosses all communities and backgrounds. The Provincial Government did well to listen to the People of Labrador on this. They are people of integrity and deep wisdom.
While many questions remain regarding the Muskrat Falls development it is now time to move forward and fully address the environmental concerns identified. The economics of the Lower Churchill Project are a whole other matter. But now is not a time for blame; it is a time to get on with the work at hand.
It is also a time for Grace among all Labradoreans and Newfoundlanders.
I end with this prayer: Most gracious God, we come before you to pray for the wellbeing of our world. You alone know the full extent of the destruction we have wrought to your beautiful handiwork, and what needs to be done to remedy it. We pray for the people around the globe who suffer because of environmental damage. We pray for the defenseless creatures harmed or made extinct by our selfishness and ignorance. We pray for the oceans, air, mountains, plants, and soil, that life and health may again pulse in them. We pray that we humans have a change of heart and stop harming the planet. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us that we may have the passion and wisdom to work effectively to restore your creation. Guide us in our personal, church and community efforts. Give us strength to continue on with this work when it is difficult and requires sacrifice. Bless the Earth and all its life in every way. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.