The proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a step closer to development with news that the Labrador Innu Nation have voted to accept a deal which includes a land claims agreement.
The Innu agreed overwhelmingly to accept the ‘New Dawn’ agreements, which had been signed in principle over a year ago. According to local media reports, the community of Sheshatshui voted 84% in favour of acceptance, while 96% of the Natuashish community agreed.
“Acceptance of the New Dawn Agreements by the Labrador Innu Nation will introduce tremendous benefits to the Innu people of Labrador, and represents a major step forward for the development of Muskrat Falls,” said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. “The ratification is a proud moment in our province’s history, and a wonderful achievement which will bring new opportunities to the Labrador Innu.”
The New Dawn Agreement includes three elements: the Upper Churchill Redress Agreement, the land claims agreement-in-principle, and the Lower Churchill Impacts and Benefits Agreement (IBA). The Upper Churchill Redress Agreement will provide compensation to the Labrador Innu for impacts associated with the existing Upper Churchill Falls development, and settles the outstanding grievances of the Innu Nation with respect to damages suffered to Innu lands and properties as a result of the flooding caused by this development in the 1960s. Key elements of the IBA include a structured royalty regime and implementation funding to support the Innu Nation’s involvement in the project during construction.
The land claims agreement-in-principle is a non-binding agreement that will form the basis for negotiating a final land claims agreement or treaty. Upon signing it will be released to the public. It will define Innu treaty rights and where those rights will apply in Labrador.
The Lower Churchill River system is comprised of Muskrat Falls with 824MW of power (first phase) and Gull Island with 2250MW (second phase)..