Canadian Innu fear social costs of new business deal

Residents walk in the northern Labrador community of Natuashish. Photo: Andrew Vaughan, The Canaian Press.Some residents of Canada’s northern Labrador coastal community of Natuashish are worried that the money attached to the New Dawn agreement could bring more harm than good to the Labrador Innu.

The agreement signed Friday gives the Labrador Innu about $100 million over the next 30 years in compensation for hunting grounds that were flooded in the 1960s when the Upper Churchill hydroelectric project was launched.

The deal also promises the Innu five per cent of all potential profits from the $6.2 billion plan to tap power at Muskrat Falls, in central Labrador, and export it to Newfoundland and eventually to Nova Scotia.

Natuashish resident Mary Jane Edmonds said she’s concerned about what the money involved in the historic deal will mean for the Labrador Innu.

“We need to educate ourselves, so that money is spent wisely, and [to make sure] that money is not being wasted,” said Edmonds.

Edmonds expressed concerns about rising social problems in the community. She said with crime, drug and alcohol abuse being on the rise, the leaders of the Labrador Innu need to use good financial judgement to ensure the money makes positive change.

“The social issues are not going to go away overnight. And you don’t know if they’re going to get worse or they’re going to get better. But we need services and services cost money, you know, to provide for the people,” said Edmonds.

With money comes responsibility: former leader

Former Innu Nation President Katie Riche believes there is a huge responsibly coming with the $100 million deal.

“I have to caution the various leaderships that they not only do it for themselves but for the importance of paving the road for future generations,” Riche told CBC News.

Riche said she believes the agreement will secure financial benefits to her children and grandchildren, but she is urging the leaders to spend wisely to cut down on increasing crime rates and social issues.

The New Dawn agreement, which will clear the way for the $6.2 billion Muskrat Falls project, will give the aboriginals recognition they did not receive when Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949.

The agreement also gives the Innu legal title to about 5,000 square miles of land, and hunting and fishing rights to an additional 22,000 square miles. They also now have partial control of resource benefits on land covered by New Dawn.

CBC News

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