Protecting the land or breaking the law? A judge will now decided the fate of the Muskrat Falls land protectors

The Labrador land protectors had their last day in court Friday defending their resistance to the Muskrat Falls hydro dam – now it’s up to the judge to decide if they broke the law.

Fifteen people face charges relating to protests and breaching an injunction when they walked through a gate and occupied part of the Nalcore site in 2016.

Linda Saunders McLean is one of the Labrador Land Protectors and she said she is glad the case is almost over.

She said personal and professional life has been swallowed up by the court.

“It has been a long drawn out process, three years is too long,” said Saunders McLean.

Nalcor, a provincially owned corporation building the hydro dam located 45 kilometres west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has been met with criticism about its handling of the project from the beginning.

It is currently the subject of a looking into the financial costs of the project that has ballooned from $3.69-billion to $12.7-billion.

The land protectors say the water downstream from the dam will be contaminated with methylmercury that will poison traditional foods, and eventually, their community.

The battle has been ongoing for years and they will have to wait until the end of the summer for a verdict.

Lawyer Mark Gruchy has been representing the land protectors from the beginning.

He told the court they did not set out to break any laws.

He presented past cases to the judge where the court used discretion and did not rule contempt, and that would be a good opportunity for reconciliation.

“It does help when there is a coming together and a communication which is what reconciliation is all about,” he said.

“And I was essentially suggesting where appropriate an exercising a discretion not to find contempt would be a gesture in that regard.”

Saunders McLean said it is time reconciliation is considered in the courtroom.

“You know this isn’t just happening today this is historically for at least a couple of hundred years,” said Saunders McLean.

She said she hopes the judge understands the reasons why they breached the injunction.

“The Aboriginal Indigenous groups are not going away we’re still here we’re still very important,” she said.

“And I think it’s really important that we have a say in everything that happens to our environment to our homes.”

The resistance did not stop Muskrat Falls, but Saunders McLean said they did make a difference.

“The land protectors had a huge impact on what’s happening throughout not only this province but through Canada as well and maybe even globally,” said Saunders McLean.

That impact may be in the courtroom as well is the Judge applies reconciliation to his verdict.

Gruchy said Nalcor and the land protectors are two communities that need to reconcile, it does not help when each side is against each other.

He asked the judge to consider discretion in his ruling and referred to previous cases.

“Courts have exercised discretion not to impose a formal finding of contempt even where contempt legally exists,” said Gruchy.

Gruchy said like Saunders McLean, that it is time for the case to be over.

“You know what no one has been charged with breaching any orders for two years and things have in a sense resolved in a sense that people are engaged with the system.

“And in fact they engaged with the system in this case they went in they gave testimony respectfully,” said Gruchy.


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