Mi’kmaw chiefs are looking for mediation help to resolve the wind power conflict

The proposed Nujio'qonik project on the Port au Port Peninsula has caused conflict with some indigenous nations, say five Mi'kmaw chiefs of southwest Newfoundland.  (Kyle Bakx/CBC - photo credit)

The proposed Nujio’qonik project on the Port au Port Peninsula has caused conflict with some indigenous nations, say five Mi’kmaw chiefs of southwest Newfoundland. (Kyle Bakx/CBC – photo credit)

Kyle Bakx/CBC

Kyle Bakx/CBC

Five Mi’kmaw chiefs in southwest Newfoundland are seeking Indigenous mediation to resolve conflicts arising from the Port-au-Port Peninsula wind-power proposal.

The five southwest Newfoundland bands, who operate collectively as the Newfoundland Association of Rural Mi’kmaq Nations, or NARMN, also hope the mediation could restore ties within communities they say have been damaged by the wind turbine project.

Peggy White is the leader of the Three Rivers Mi’kmaq Band, based in Bay Saint George South, about 70 kilometers south of Stephenville.

White says she hopes all parties involved would benefit from the mediation.

“We hope that involving a third party can help the company, ourselves and the people who live in our area – all of them – to come together and find a solution,” White said.

“There has to be a way for this to work. We need significant economic infrastructure, which we haven’t had in the last 70 years.”

In a joint statement released Thursday, leaders of the Three Rivers Mi’kmaq Band, the Benoit First Nation, the Flat Bay Indian Band, the St. George’s Indian Band and the Burgeo First Nation expressed concern about the rifts that have emerged within their communities on the Nujio’qonik project proposed by the World Energy GH2 company.

The statement also said that the five chiefs were contacted by World Energy GH2 in spring 2022 and that the chiefs have supported the project ever since, given the potential positive impact it could have on their communities.

Opinions on the project vary within nations, White said, with some wanting infrastructure in the region to create opportunities for younger generations. The median age in the region is around 60, she said.

“We have to change that. And if we don’t do that, people will understand that our communities will cease to exist. And when an indigenous community ceases to exist, that’s the extinction of a culture on the land they’ve lived on for generations,” White said.

“Some people understand what we’re facing and some don’t. Some people only have an idea of ​​what the project is and they have trouble understanding what that will look like in the future.”

Colleen Connors/CBC

Colleen Connors/CBC

Mediation, White said, can help find some balance between the two sides and combat misinformation by helping people understand all aspects of the project.

“A real process that stops us from making people feel like they don’t have any information, that we’re being taken advantage of in any way,” White said.

“There’s a third party that can say, ‘Well, no, no, we’ve met every step of the process.’ So there is transparency. That way everyone can just come together and understand that we didn’t miss anything.”

Jasen Benwah is a chief of the Benoit First Nation in the southwest of the Port-au-Port Peninsula.

He agrees that mediation is necessary.

“We need to get back into the communities and feel that connection and feel that sharing of information,” Benwah said. “I think that’s critical to our own truth and reconciliation when it comes to where we stand as human beings.”

Benwah, who was criticized for supporting the project, said in retrospect that an intermediary should have been used from the start. Still, he doesn’t change his stance on the matter.

Patrick Butler/Radio Canada

Patrick Butler/Radio Canada

“It’s important for our field to move forward as long as we find the balance that we need and that we get everything right for our next seven generations,” he said.

Both Benwah and White believe that impartial outside experts are needed to mediate on the issue. They hope that the conciliation process will begin in early March.

“We need to make sure that … people in our territories are confident that we’ve met all possible requirements,” White said. “If meeting all of these processes makes people feel safer, then we have a duty to do that.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button