Camping in the cold

Derek Montague
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Goose Bay residents protest by pitching tent near Muskrat Falls

Denise Cole and James Learning slept overnight on December 14, in this tent across from the Muskrat Falls work site. That night, the temperature dipped below -20 degrees Celsius.

While most people in central Labrador have been staying warm inside during the recent cold snap, two people recently spent an entire day and night in a canvas tent across from the Muskrat Falls work site, with just a small woodstove to keep warm.

On Dec. 14th, James Learning and Denise Cole pitched their tent in the “safety zone” on the Trans Labrador Highway, which was constructed for people to protest and display their viewpoints on the Muskrat Falls project.

Cole says that she and Learning wanted to camp out across from the site because it would be a ‘Labradorian-style way’ of demonstrating their displeasure with the hydroelectric mega project.

“When we talk about having a chance to come together and share, this is how we do it. We do it in our Labrador tents. We do it with our boil-ups,” says Cole.

“This night is to send a statement that…we stand to protect Labrador, to protect Labrador Rivers, to protect Muskrat Falls, and it’s become symbolic and very much a part of our spiritual path.”

Cole and Learning invited the general public to come out and camp with them. Even though a dozen or so people came to the tent to show their support, they were the only two who camped out overnight.

“Well, I don’t think that enough people are out here, for one thing. I just want to help protect,” says Rosalie Michelin, who came to visit the tent.

“The meaning (of the camp out) is to prove the point that we are here and we can’t be silenced.”

Roberta Benefiel was another friend who came out to support the two campers. Like Rosalie, she wishes more people who oppose the Muskrat Falls project would join them in demonstrating their viewpoints.

“I know there are more people who feel the same way that we do, I just wish that they would come and show how they feel,” says Benefiel.

“Muskrat Falls is a part of me, it’s a part of all of us. And I think most of us have been working eight, ten, years…trying to protect it. And what’s going on across the street over there, across the highway, it just tears the heart out of most of us.”

Cole is concerned that Muskrat Falls could just be the beginning of large-scale developments that could affect the environment in Labrador. She feels that now is the time for Labradorians to unite in order to protect the land.

“I think Muskrat Falls is the tip of the iceberg,” says Cole. “It’s a place for us to stand. And if we can all stand together, than maybe we can change it and we can stop looking at Labrador as a place to be gutted out. Then we can take back our pride and take back our respect.”

Organizations: Trans Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Labrador

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