June 9, 2019: NAMRA joined Indigenous and other allies in Ottawa, Canada to bring their message to the International Coalition on Large Dams and politicians about the negative impacts of megadams.
NAMRA’s message: Canada’s Blood Megawatts are not welcome in the USA: we will no longer be complicit in the genocide and environmental destruction caused Hydro-Quebec, Manitoba Hydro, and others.
Ottawa, Canada: On June 10, 2019, police forces illegally occupying unsurrendered, unceded Algonquin territory at the site of the Canadian Parliament building formed a wall with barricades and dozens of officers to prevent a group of Indigenous land protectors and settler allies from delivering a Petition with almost 16,000 signatures to Catherine McKenna, Canadian environment minister. The Petition demands that she follow up on the United Nations call for Canada to intervene and end the methylmercury crisis at the site of the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador and address the ongoing crisis of hydro-impacted northern Manitoba Indigenous communities. Read more here.
On June 10, 2019, Canadian police arrested 13 people – Carol Kobliski and Leanne Neckaway of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation , Rita Rossmonias of Pimicikamak Okimawin, Amy Norman (Nunatsiavummiuk, Labrador Land Protector, Happy Valley-Goose Bay), Eldred Davis (Nunatukavut elder), Matthew Behrens, Colin Stuart, two NAMRA allies from the U.S., and Ria Heynen, Linda Green, Martha Ruben, and Liza Holly. All were arrested for “trespassing” and released with a 90-day ban from Parliament Hill. All for trying to deliver a petition and set up a meeting on Indigenous rights after 15 months of trying to set one up with McKenna’s office.
The arrests followed a series of events intended to deliver a message to Canadian politicians and the 1,100 delegates attending the 87th ICOLD Annual Meeting and conference in Ottawa that week. ICOLD promotes large dams and the delegates and dam supporters come from multinational corporations profiting from financing and engineering large dams. In May, megadam opponents delivered a letter to ICOLD asking for a chance to address the conference and stating, “At a time when Indigenous and non-Indigenous land and water defenders here and around the globe are struggling with the negative impacts of large dams, we see that the big and bold promises made by your organization do not match the sordid reality on the ground.”
Following negotiations between dam opponents and ICOLD, a meeting was held with ICOLD board members on June 9, 2019. See the post-meeting interviews here.
The day after the meeting, on Monday, June 10, dam opponents held a press conference on Parliament Hill. As stated by Matthew Behrens of the Ottawa Muskrat Solidarity Committee, we were “resisting genocide from the belly of the beast.” The group made its’ way through the labyrinthine hallways to the media conference room in Parliament’s West Block, where we called on the Trudeau government to intervene to end the methylmercury crisis at Muskrat Falls (featuring Amy Norman and Erin Saunders) and to ensure justice for northern Manitoba’s hydro-impacted Indigenous communities (Carol Kobliski and Rita Rossmonias, while American visitor Meg Sheehan talked about how she is working to ensure her country does not buy Blood Megawatts from Canadian Hydro.
Following the press conference, a rally was held outside the Shaw Centre where the ICOLD conference was happening. Supporters handed fact sheets to delegates entering the conference, as ICOLD directors looked on.
Dr. Candy Gonzalez called in to the rally from Belize, where she has been fighting the Chilillo dam with the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy. Check them out here. In a recent article, Belize Electric Company attempts to refute the Institute’s well-documented claims of 20 years of misinformation including methylmercury poisoning of fish, dam safety issues, and high electric rates. Dr. Gonzalez drove home the point that hydro-impacted communities around the work face the same misinformation, political disempowerment and negative impacts from the megadams that ICOLD’s members promote and profit from.
Around Canada, simultaneous events were held in solidarity.
Video from the rally at the ICOLD conference (Candy Gonzalez begins at 18 minutes in).