Muskrat Falls: My Fight Against A Multibillion Dollar Corporation

December 8, 2017 HUMAN RIGHTS , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Trina Roache photo

 

By

Beatrice Hunter

 

 

As I look into my ingutak’s (granddaughter’s) eyes and watch her play, I think about what type of world I will leave her. I also think about the current crisis the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is in because of Nalcor and the hydrodam. This overpriced, debt ridden energy project has been recklessly mismanaged by egotistical and short sighted executives. I don’t even think they know how to fix it because they have overwhelmed themselves with all the mistakes they have already made, and in their view, to admit they’re wrong is to admit defeat. The present provincial governments’ behavior is like that of a third world country that I thought only existed elsewhere or in movies. It is a totalitarian dictatorship fueled by a commercialistic attitude and when you don’t have compassion for others it is not a democracy, it is unnatural and sick.

 

My eyes truly opened to the insidious colonial government oppression in October 2016, when about 50 of us Labradorians had broken through the Muskrat Falls gate, occupying the land for four and half days, trying to get answers about the serious environmental concerns with methylmercury contamination and the instability of the North Spur.

 

The North Spur is what keeps me up at night. Will it take another catastrophe, like the Mud Lake flooding for Labradorians to stand together again and figure out a way to get the answers that will provide safety for those living in Happy Valley? Do people have to die for the rest of Canada to open their eyes to the oppression?

 

I didn’t grow up hating my country; I grew up loving it. Never in a million years did I think I would go to prison, let alone an institution for men, simply for doing what I truly believe is right. Muskrat Falls is literally a threat to life and health and it feels as if I am trying to save the last part of me that hasn’t been stolen or assimilated. Isn’t trying to save others and this land the right thing to do? Apparently it is not because Canadian law is saying otherwise. Every day that I honour my court ordered conditions by not going through the Muskrat Falls gate to protest in defiance of this horrific project, a dam that will poison and destroy the people and the land, I am allowing the colonial system and the oppressors to rule. Power belongs to the people, not to a select few. How do you get through to colonists who always think they are right because they can’t see beyond their own greed?

 

The current recession has caused many Canadians, particularly Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to remain silent and to develop an ‘every person for him or herself’ attitude. In light of this, how can I explain to the masses that my connection to mother earth is personal when they are surrounded by concrete everywhere, just like a jail cell itself? How can you explain to them that real life is all around them?

 

Why would anyone want to live in this oppressive society? I have been conditioned by colonization to think I could not make a difference and I don’t know the answers but I do know that if Canadians could hear the truth in my voice and heart they would understand. The response to the television interviews I conducted was overwhelming and I cannot express enough gratitude to those in and out of the province for securing my release from prison and for seeing that I only want to live my life like my ancestors.

 

I am now determined that I am not leaving this oppressive society to my children or ingutak, no matter the cost. I want to look into my ingutak’s eyes, without any hesitation, and tell her “We did this for you.”

 

I was not always aware that I was oppressed but I always felt something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Growing up in any controlling society will blind a person to the systems which rule the oppressed and I was no different. The question then has to be asked, why is my life less important than theirs?

 

What gives me hope is looking into my ingutak’s eyes and seeing that it doesn’t have to be too late for her. My hope is also the support I received from across the nation, you helped free me; nakummek (thank you).

 

It’s ironic to me how a hydrodam can be tied to freedom, when it is responsible for my oppression, the loss of freedom of expression to live my way of life and the many liberties that were supposed to be given to a Canadian in a democratic and free society.

 

Going to prison was the most traumatic experience in my life to date, even more traumatizing than being beaten by my ex husband and being drug raped, because this experience was by choice. There are people who probably thought “oh, just another native gone to jail she probably deserved it” or “She’s a drunk and whore anyway.” These were familiar attitudes I grew up with, but I lived the way my parents taught me, with respect for others, respect in certain situations and especially respect to the environment, the land. This did not prepare me for the shock of going to jail for those same values given to me from my parents and for being Inuk.

 

The most degrading and embarrassing part of my arrest experience was the strip search where I was completely naked in front of a total stranger. It felt like rape. The female guard just rolled her eyes at my defiance and embarrassment.

 

I know that it is important for readers and supporters to hear about an experience that has been painful for me, but the attention was not something I expected. I would rather have moved forward and concentrated on the fight but after being released, the panic attacks began and they lasted for two weeks. I would wake up at three a.m., terrified, pulling the blanket over my head to feel safe because I was overwhelmed by the fear that they would take me away again.

 

The most difficult part of prison was being away from my ingutak, my children and my family. Not being able to see, hug, kiss or take care of them and it disturbs me if I think about it too much. The day I got out of prison, I cuddled with my daughter beside me. I said to her ‘it’s so good to see your face.” She said “it’s good to see yours too.”

 

I hope that telling people my story causes change, because honestly I don’t want to speak or write about it. It’s not this neat little package that can be put aside until a later date because the fight has had its battles that resulted in losses and wins. I believe taking time to heal from a traumatic experience for each of us is different. I am currently moving forward and forgive, but it’s a daily effort.

 

I rely on my creator to help me keep faith and hope. All through the incarceration process I was comforted and protected with good kind people around me. Within twenty minutes of my arrival at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, the female inmates, having just read my story in the Labradorian, had great compassion for me. The creator also reassured me that I was not alone because the first thing I saw when I walked into the penitentiary was a quote hanging on the wall that read “Do not walk the path, instead make your own path and lead the way.” – Author unknown.

 

Although I do not consider myself an activist, it is my duty to ensure I leave the world a better place for those who cannot fight for themselves. My parents and ancestors ensured that I had respect for mother earth and all life. We didn’t waste what Mother Nature provided. I realize that this will be a war that cannot be fought and won overnight but how many of us Labradorians will have to go to prison or die before this is finally resolved?

 

 

 

 

Beatrice Hunter

My name is Beatrice Hunter, I am an Inuk grandmother, mother of 3 adult children and am currently fighting a multibillion dollar corporation to try and prevent methylmercury poisoning and possible drowning of my people. I was sent to prison for not promising to stay away from Muskrat Falls for 11 days until Canadians helped get me out and back to my family. I continue to fight in court both supreme and provincial. I hope you join us. Thank you.

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