rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Muskrat Falls project violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!


The Trudeau government should honour its commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and stop Muskrat Falls, said Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson.

Protesters have long been rallying against the Muskrat Falls hydro project, afraid that the flooding as part of the dam and powerhouse construction may contaminate fish and other wild foods with methylmercury and effect Indigenous communities who rely on the fish and seal meat.

The resulting reservoir would expand over an area of about 41 square kilometres near Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Continuous protests that started on Saturday are asking Nalcor, a provincial energy corporation which is headquartered in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to reconsider their plan to flood the reservoir at the hydroelectric project site.

"The flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir over protest of locals may be violating a UN declaration Canada only agreed to last May. Barlow says the relationship between governments and the rights of indigenous people to their lands has changed even since the beginning of the Muskrat Falls project, and that moving ahead in this way may have international legal implications,” VOCM reported. “She says as recently as last May the Trudeau government agreed to the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which requires prior informed consent before anything like the flooding of the area this can go ahead."

"When the Innu and Inuit oppose something like Muskrat Falls we oppose it with them," said Barlow.

Article 19 of the UN declaration highlights the importance of receiving free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect Indigenous peoples.

The declaration also notes that Indigenous peoples have the "right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories" and "the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands."

The Muskrat Falls project violates all three of these rights.

APTN reported that the Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc is considering a request for a review of a federal permit issued for the the Muskrat Falls project. The network reported that Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary of Indigenous affairs said she recently asked LeBlanc to review the issuing of the federal permit by his department to Nalcor, the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown corporation behind the dam.

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project would see two large dams, a 32 metre high north dam and a 29 metre south dam, on the lower Churchill River in Labrador.

The dams are being built on Innu lands and would severely impact Inuit peoples.

In 2012, the federal government provided a loan guarantee of $6.4 billion to enable the project to proceed. It also removed federal oversight of the Churchill River in their Navigation Protection Act.

The parliamentary secretary of Indigenous affairs says she expects a response from the federal Fisheries Minister within the next few days. His answer will need to come soon. 

Yesterday afternoon, officials began the impoundment of the Muskrat Falls dam reservoir with water levels now expected to rise by about half a metre to one metre a day. The water levels will rise to 39 metres by 2019. If not stopped, the dam will flood 41 square kilometres and establish a 100 square kilometre reservoir. 

The Council of Canadians has stated that the federal and provincial government can only proceed with the flooding once Indigenous peoples have their given free, prior and informed consent. 

We have long supported the endorsement and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which also has major implications for the Alton Gas Storage Project, the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal, the Site C dam, and the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines.

While the Trudeau government promised to implement the declaration in May, by July federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said it was "unworkable" to incorporate it into Canadian law.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.