HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY - Nunatukavut and Nalcor announced an agreement that was described by both sides as ‘ground-breaking’ on Dec. 4. The organization representing the Southern Inuit has signed a Community Development Agreement (CDA) with the provincial energy utility worth over $8 million.
“The CDA is significant, it is long term and it will provide significant benefits for our communities and our people,” he said. “It also signals a major shift in public policy, in particular one of exclusion and denial to one of inclusion.”
Russell said the agreement acknowledges NCC must be at the table when resource projects are happening on their territory and protects their indigenous rights.
Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady said Nalcor and the Indigenous communities need to have a strong and lasting relationship and the community development agreement is to do that. When asked if it was recognition of need for a land claim with Nunatukavut, Coady said she thinks it’s a recognition of Nalcor working with the Indigenous communities in Labrador.
“I think it’s recognition of community advancement and development,” she said. “I think it’s a recognition of some of the concerns that NunatuKavut have had and I think it’s a positive step toward to have Nalcor working with Indigenous leaders and Indigenous communities.”
One of the areas of concern NunatuKavut and other indigenous groups have had is around methylmercury and the impact upon the food supply of communities. As part of the CDA Nalcor will fund an independent, supplemental baseline dietary survey and hair sampling study for NCC members in Upper Lake Melville, adding to the work being done by the Nunatsiavut Government.
“It will provide a firmer baseline of information around methylmercury and this will certainly help in trying to understand any potential dietary impacts it may have,” Russell said. “It will also give us an opportunity to better inform mitigation efforts and the types of efforts we could make in the future. It is important that our people are fully incorporated into that piece of work.”
Jim Keating, Executive Vice President, Corporate Services and Offshore Development for Nalcor, said the study is a worthwhile opportunity to invest in further sampling and further data, which will only augment their understanding around methylmercury. He said the CDA fosters a stronger and more respectful relationship between NCC and Nalcor, which they need.
Keating said their experience shows if indigenous groups are engaged early in the decision making processes, have influence, and their knowledge is openly sought to be incorporated into the project and that they stand to benefit, those resource projects have a much purer pathway to development.
The agreement is for six years and it came into effect on December 1. In addition to addressing environmental concerns around the Muskrat Falls and Labrador Transmission projects, it also looks at future projects in Labrador.
“This provision provides that Nalcor and NCC will meet and engage in good faith to promote meaningful NCC participation to assist with the protection of the environment and reduction of adverse environmental impacts of Future Nalcor Projects,” said a release from NCC on the CDA. “It also commits Nalcor and NCC to engaging in good faith negotiations towards a project-specific agreement and the consideration of Indigenous traditional knowledge.”
Additionally, the CDA provides funding in existing NCC programs, including the Investing in NunatuKavut Communities Infrastructure Program, George Roberts Community Grants Program and the Southern Inuit Education Program. The CDA also brings up the potential of a commercial relationship around alternative energy in and around NCC communities in Labrador.