Johannes Lampe (left), president of the Nunatsiavut Government, talks to the media in the city of St. John's in 2016. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Reservoir impoundment puts Atlantic Inuit culture at the “point of no return,” says Indigenous leader


The president of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region of the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the beginning of the  impoundment  of the Muskrat Falls reservoir last week, is a danger to people in the region.

“Our many efforts to convince the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nalcor Energy to take necessary measures to mitigate impacts of methylmercury on the Lake Melville ecosystem have all been in vain,and we are now at a point of no return where the health, culture and way of life of many Labrador Inuit hangs in the balance,” Johannes Lampe said in a news release on Thursday.

“The Impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir has begun, and with it the start of a chain of events that will have significant impacts on Labrador Inuit and, in particular, the community of Rigolet.”

Controversial project

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, pitched as green energy solution that would connect to the North American energy grid, has long been shrouded in controversy.

A map showing the reservoir impoundment area upstream from the Muskrat Falls facility. (Nalcor Energy)

Its construction has gone over time and over budget. Indigenous peoples across Labrador have been protesting the project for years for its potential to negatively affect the environment and the fish and wildlife they rely on for food.

A public inquiry into the troubled project is currently underway in the province, with a final report expected by the end of the year.

In July, Lampe called on Newfoundland and Labrador provincial premier Dwight Ball to halt flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, saying the risk of methylmercury contamination to the ecosystem is too great. Lampe said Nalcor Energy, the company behind the project, had budgeted funds to cap the wetlands but that they had not got environmental approval from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Methylmercury is a compound that can be created when mercury is converted into an organic form. This form can then be easily ingested by fish and other living organisms. In flooded areas, the water accelerates the breakdown of vegetation and speeds up the conversation of naturally occurring mercury in the soil into methylmercury. Excess consumption of food with high levels of the compound can be a risk to human health.

Many Inuit in Nunatsiavut still rely on fishing and hunting to feed their families.

Agreements with two out of three Indigenous groups

In July, Premier Dwight Ball announced the agreements made between Nalcor Energy, the NunatuKavut Community Council, which represents southern Inuit in the province, as well as the Innu Nation, to split the $30-million budget for capping between.

The Nunatsiavut Government however, declined such an agreement.

“We have said all along that compensation is not a form of mitigation,” Lamp said in the Thursday news release.  “We advised (Nalcor CEO) Mr. Marshall, as well as the Premier, that offering Labrador’s three Indigenous groups a share of this $30 million would be perceived as a form of compensation, or “hush money”.

“We remain adamant this money should have been used for what it was intended – to cap wetlands.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says it was never government’s intention to let the deadline for wetland capping work slip by. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

However, at the time Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, in a July newsletter to members said the money was not compensation. 

“Once it was confirmed that wetland capping would not proceed, Nalcor offered the budgeted thirty million dollars for equal distribution to Labrador’s three Indigenous groups,” the NCC said in the newsletter. “This money is not compensation or part of any deal on methylmercury.”

On Thursday, Lampe characterized the impoundment as a “ticking time bomb” for Labrador Inuit and said it goes against the move in Canada in recent years for governments to work on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“The Nunatsiavut Government is extremely disappointment with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador with the way it has handled the whole Muskrat Falls fiasco,” Lamp said.

“The Premier has repeated betrayed our trust by neglecting to respond, in writing or publicly, to our concerns and/or questions.

“If this is what reconciliation is all about, then we want no part of it.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit community council in Atlantic Canada signs agreement with Nalcor Energy for $10-million, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: The world could transition entirely to cheap, safe renewable energy before 2050: Finnish study, Yle News

Norway: The quest to turn Norway’s Arctic coast into Northern Europe’s wind power hub, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Italian firm to build giant wind farm in northwestern Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s solar industry sees bright future despite shrinking subsidies, Radio Sweden

United States: Despite winter darkness, solar power might work better in rural Alaska than you’d expect, Alaska Dispatch New

For more news on the Arctic, visit:

Categories: Environment, Indigenous
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


One comment on “Reservoir impoundment puts Atlantic Inuit culture at the “point of no return,” says Indigenous leader
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    So many chemical compounds can be either beneficial or detrimental to natural or human life. One must monitor them all so closely.