Build­ing a broader com­mu­nity

Forteau hosts Nu­natuKavut’s AGA; Muskrat Falls and land claim sub­stan­tial is­sues dis­cussed

The Labradorian - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

For the first time ever, Forteau held host to the Nu­natuKavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil’s (NCC) An­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly (AGA).

The fes­tiv­i­ties were held in mid- Jan­uary at the Forteau Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, with a ban­quet at the North­ern Light Inn in L’Anse-au-Clair.

NCC pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell de­scribed the at­mos­phere as hope­ful, not­ing a high num­ber of young peo­ple in at­ten­dance and a sub­stan­tial turnout of more than 150 peo­ple.

He said he was thrilled to have the event in a new lo­ca­tion this year, to con­nect with more of the com­mu­nity across Nu­natuKavut’s vast ter­ri­tory.

“It just af­firmed that we’re there for all of our peo­ple, all of our mem­bers, wher­ever they may be,” he said. “And that we’re a part of the wider com­mu­nity and [hav­ing it in a place such as Forteau] was a real phys­i­cal, tan­gi­ble way of demon­strat­ing that.”

He stated his ap­pre­ci­a­tion at the co-op­er­a­tion the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ceived through ac­com­mo­da­tions and ser­vices, as well as with the sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment pro­vided through busi­nesses in the Labrador Straits and South­ern Labrador. Rus­sell cites spon­sor­ship from Pow­ell Air­lines, Air Labrador, Bat­tle Har­bour His­toric Trust, the Labrador Fish­er­man’s Union Shrimp Com­pany and from in­di­vid­ual fish­ers such as Dwight Rus­sell, amongst oth­ers.

And the NCC was also able to give back to the com­mu­nity of Forteau. This in­cluded a do­na­tion of $2,500 to the long-term unit.

On Muskrat Falls, the land claim, and other top­ics of dis­cus­sion

Dur­ing the AGA, the NCC re­ported on the progress made on what Rus­sell calls “a num­ber of im­por­tant files.” Per­haps, most sub­stan­tially, this in­cludes the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­sponse to Muskrat Falls and de­vel­op­ments on a land claim agree­ment.

Rus­sell noted that over the past year, the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ported the “Make Muskrat Right” cam­paign and was in­volved di­rectly in the progress that was made on the methylmer­cury is­sue.

At the AGA, Rus­sell said peo­ple were very en­gaged in dis­cus­sion over Muskrat Falls and there re­mains much angst amongst the Nu­natuKavut com­mu­nity over Nal­cor’s han­dling of this mat­ter.

“There was some se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about, well, ‘where the hell is that re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship be­tween Nal­cor and Nu­natuKavut?’” said Rus­sell. “‘Why won’t Nal­cor come to the ta­ble and re­spect the fact that they are on lands that are our tra­di­tional lands and the im­pact that this project is hav­ing on our peo­ple and our com­mu­ni­ties and our land and our wa­ters?’”

Rus­sell be­lieves that the pres­sure is con­tin­u­ing to build on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue and if mea­sur­able progress isn’t made in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Nal­cor and Nu­natuKavut, there will be more di­rect ac­tion taken by the peo­ple of Nu­natuKavut this spring and summer.

“But we still hold out some hope that pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and Nal­cor will see that there’s a bet­ter way for­ward in terms of their re­la­tion­ship with us,” he said. “And, in fact, that we’re needed and that this project can only ba­si­cally sur­vive with a good re­la­tion­ship. And [we hope] they’ll come to the ta­ble.”

In re­gards to the land claim, Rus­sell noted that they are presently in a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. He says he was “up­lifted” to hear Labrador MP Yvonne Jones on be­half of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Cartwright- L’Anse- au- Clair MHA Lisa Demp­ster on be­half of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment recom­mit to the land claim.

“Peo­ple were ex­pect­ing a progress re­port on the prom­ises and com­mit­ments that Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau and Premier Ball had made dur­ing the cam­paign,” said Rus­sell.

He is hope­ful that within the next few months, they will hear some­thing pos­i­tive on this front.

Other top­ics of dis­cus­sion in­cluded the Meale Moun­tain re­serve, the fish­ery and the progress made on the shrimp file, the 20th an­niver­sary of the Ea­gle River protest, and the south­ern Inuit tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

Rus­sell also touched upon his opin­ion that the group is reach­ing “new heights in terms of our re­la­tion­ship with other indige­nous gov­ern­ments in Labrador.”

“It speaks well to the progress that we’re mak­ing as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, and that indige­nous peo­ples in Labrador are mak- ing,” he said. “I be­lieve very im­por­tant.”

More­over, this year they wanted to em­pha­size health and well-be­ing as well as cul­ture and learn­ing. And Rus­sell said some of the more se­ri­ous sub­ject mat­ters couldn’t hin­der the up­beat and op­ti­mistic mood that en­cour­aged com­mu­nity build­ing. that’s

“One of the over­ar­ch­ing themes was that, ‘It’s Our Time’ and that’s not some­thing that just hap­pens, it’s some­thing we make hap­pen,” he said. “And we re­ally feel it’s our time to have our rights rec­og­nized, to have our place in our own home­land rec­og­nized.”

PHO­TOS SUB­MIT­TED BY NU­NATUKAVUT COM­MU­NITY COUN­CIL

Nu­natuKavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell speaks at the An­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly in Forteau.

AGA par­tic­i­pants learnt how to drum dance at a work­shop fa­cil­i­tated by Amanda Maggo-Earle (not pic­tured).

Richard Miche­lin shows off his duf­fle craft at the craft work­shop at Nu­natuKavut’s An­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly.

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