The Innu Nation is suing Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador over the Muskrat Falls rate mitigation deal, according to a media release issued Tuesday afternoon.
In the release, the nation said its intention is to stop the deal, announced two weeks ago by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Andrew Furey, “from erasing the benefits promised to Innu Nation by the province, in exchange for allowing the Muskrat Falls project to be built on Innu Nation’s lands.”
At the time the deal was announced, the Innu Nation was vocal about its disappointment over not being invited to discussions on the deal. The group has remained adamant that it should be included on all discussions regarding the over-budget hydroelectric project, from which it’s expected to see millions in royalties.
“We are left with no other option but to go to court to protect ourselves. The Innu people are very angry about this betrayal. The response of the prime minister and the premier to Innu concerns about the rate mitigation deal have been extremely disrespectful and dismissive,” said Etienne Rich, grand chief of Innu Nation, in the release.
“Canada and the province refuse to accept our reasonable conditions for discussions and instead the province has made clear that any discussions must be based on the Innu accepting the rate mitigation deal as is, regardless of the impact on the Innu.”
Earlier this month the Innu Nation sent letters to Trudeau and Furey asking for three things:
- Immediate access to the detailed financial modelling for the project.
- A commitment to revising the agreement in principle to ensure Innu benefits are maintained.
- A seat at the negotiating table for the Innu to ensure the final rate mitigation agreements maintain the benefits promised to the Innu people in the impacts and benefits agreement signed in 2011.
Innu Nation said it received a letter from Furey on Friday that didn’t address their requests.
“The premier premised any discussions on the Innu accepting the current rate mitigation deal. The premier did not even offer to share the financial modelling information, despite telling the public in an interview on Aug. 4 that financial modelling about how the rate mitigation deal would impact the Innu’s IBA had already been done,” reads the release.
“Innu Nation has therefore launched a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to protect its rights and the benefits promised to the Innu for consenting to the Muskrat Fall Project. The claim is based on the fact that Canada and the province took direct, deliberate and decisive action to extinguish the financial benefits that the Innu people were promised in return for their consent that Muskrat Falls could be built.”
The nation said both Trudeau and Furey were advised Monday the group would be taking court action.
It claims Canada and the province violated their duties to the Innu by breaching the Crown’s fiduciary duties to the Innu, breaching the duty to consult and accommodate, and breaching the honour of the Crown.
The Innu Nation said it understands and supports rate mitigation to help residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the statement continues, “there is no justification for making the Innu bear the burden of cost overruns that they had no control over, when the Innu have already paid through the damage to their lands and Aboriginal rights.”
“Canada and the province had many options and many opportunities to consult the Innu and to do things the right way: with honesty, integrity, and a genuine commitment to reconciliation,” said Rich.
“Instead, they choose to mislead and betray the Innu. It angers and saddens us that once again instead of choosing to collaborate and work with the Innu in partnership, they decided to try to take from us to see if they could get away with it.”
One week ago Indigenous Affairs Minister Lisa Dempster told CBC News the province is committed to reconciliation and highly values its relationship with the Innu and all Indigenous groups.
Further, Dempster said the commitments contained within the impact and benefits agreement with the Innu Nation will be honoured.