Premier sits down with Land Protectors

Published on February 15, 2017

Premier Dwight Ball and the four Labrador MHA’s met with a group of Labrador Land Protectors on Feb. 10.

©Janet Cooper

After months of trying to get a meeting with the Premier, a group of Labrador Land Protectors finally got their wish on Feb. 10.

The group staged a die-in at the Combined Councils of Labrador meetings held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that day and were invited to speak to Premier Dwight Ball and the four Labrador MHA’s in an informal sharing circle.

Denise Cole, one of the land protectors at the meeting said she feels government has a lot to learn about listening and answering in a way that ‘gives answers not detours’. She said she was happy that the meeting finally happened but it should not have taken this long to get a meeting with Ball, who also holds the title of Minister Responsible for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

“It was unbelievable really, to have to go through all of this to have the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs meet with Labradorians,” she told TC. “It's another reason he has no business to hold that title.”

The group has been calling for Ball to resign from those posts for months, which he firmly rejected during the meeting. Cole said Ball offered a meeting behind closed doors with no recording with three Labrador Land Protectors and they refused. They live streamed the meeting via Facebook, which the government officials there were aware of.

“We refused and negotiated since Feb 5 to get the round table that we finally got,” she said. “That's how nervous we make government or how little they value us as people to meet with, I think it's probably a bit of both. They also are learning we are smart and coordinated, just like at the supreme court on the injunction issue, we are showing them we know what we are doing and the PR nightmare if they try to ignore or dismiss us.”

John Learning, a NunatuKavut elder who spoke at the meeting, said he was ‘totally disgusted’ with the Labrador MHAs.

“When we first came out with the methylmercury not one of you publicly came out and said, ‘No, we got to stop, we got to look at this seriously.’ Our so-called minister of environment said we’ll cut a few more trees…which is ridiculous,” Learning said at the meeting.

Land Protector Marjorie Flowers was more vocal in her condemnation of the local MHA’s.

“We were bawling for you, yelling for you, we wanted you to support us,” she told the collected group on Feb. 10. “We wanted you, Lisa (Dempster), to come here and show your face and tell us everything was going to be okay. We wanted you, Randy (Edmunds), to come here and tell us that you supported us and you were going to stand up against your own government and say the people are more important, people’s safety against methylmercury poisoning is more important, and more important than possible drowning. But you didn’t come here, and you didn’t come here.”

Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair Lisa Dempster came to Cole after the meeting and asked to come to a sharing circle with the land protectors, Cole said, which shows her Dempster was listening.

Cole said a big message she took from it all, in how Ball responded and the body language from all the government representatives, was they should have been confident in how they responded and they were not.

“I believe that was probably the first time any of them had experienced decolonization first hand. Labrador Land Protectors are reclaiming their space, tradition, and confidence. We are setting the tone, this is new for government to experience and adapt to no doubt. We are decolonizing daily, it's a powerful place to be.”