Building a broader community
Forteau hosts NunatuKavut’s AGA; Muskrat Falls and land claim substantial issues discussed
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.”
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.