Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Racism in Newfoundland

Racism is always a tough topic to talk about, because it speaks to the ugly base emotions of the human condition. It is tribalism. It is virulent, and it is widespread here. Of course, Newfoundland is not alone in that department, but it takes a particularly nasty bent here - especially when money is involved. A fairly recent example was the case of Randy Simms, mayor of Mount Pearl and previously a radio show host on the provinces number one radio show. While having a debate with an Innu chief, over caribou herds, Simms referred to Innu people and aboriginals in general as "you people" and that they were "stupid". If you can stomach a tirade. that ought to turn your stomach, I've included two of the rants here . That was the most recent and publicly available example here in the province - until now.

Last week the Nunatsiavut government, representing the Inuit people of Labrador, presented a study conducted by Harvard University, which very specifically stated the Muskrat Falls hydro project would result, among other things, in a 400% increase in methylmercury in Lake Melville. Lake Melville is a massive lake at the bottom of the Churchill River where the Nunatsiavut people hunt, fish, and drink. It's been a critical part of their lives for thousands of years. The report states that under the high (worst case) scenario that once the Muskrat Falls reservoir is filled, with only partial clearing, that up to 66% of Rigolet residents would exceed the USEPA guidelines for safe mercury levels. Currently there are 20% of Rigolet residents that exceed the USEPA standards. Furthermore, the study found that among people living off hunting and fishing may see a rise in methylmercury levels of 1500%. These are some of the points from the study. I've included it here.

Under normal circumstances Newfoundlanders would be lightening quick to denounce the poisoning of woman and children. There would be outrage. There would be screaming and condemnation in the House of Assembly - if for no other reason than to score political points. Case in point the fracking fiasco at Corner Brook. Community outrage at having fracking drilling conducted near their watershed caused the development to be stopped in its tracks. An example of the outrage is a quote from a local opponent:

"When the health of the community is at stake, when mothers have to give their children water near fracked wells, there should be a scientific consensus that the practise is safe... Why would you experiment with the health and safety of our children and not your own?

Great words and sentiment, but one problem - the government never reacted when the Inuit said the same thing after the monumental Harvard study. In fact, the public never reacted either. In fact, not one word or one question was raised in the House of Assembly about the study be the world's foremost expert on the effects of methylmercury from Harvard. There were a few short stories in the media that covered the Nunatsiavut press conference. Then nothing, except the three daily radio shows whose hosts tried to enlighten people on the issue.  However, the three open line shows were almost devoid of any talk from people calling in about the poisoning of the Inuit. By the way, the Innu would also be poisoned in a similar if not worse fashion as they live closer to the dam site.

I was shocked, ashamed, and embarrassed at the members of our House of Assembly. Ordinarily, such a report would provoke a furor. The only reasonable explanation is they just don't care enough to even bring the matter up. Why don't they care? Because it's just a few "natives" up in Labrador. Racism. Pure and simple. there is no other explanation. Even the NDP, in their third party status, couldn't muster up a single question. No outrage. No questions. As if it never even happened. There is currently a petition on line requesting Labradorians separate from the province. Is it any wonder? The Inuit, Innu, and Nunatukavut (Metis) peoples form a good portion of Labrador's population, and an even greater share of its landmass. Yet this is how they are treated by the white folks down in the pearly gates of the House of assembly in St. John's. Is it any wonder they may want to leave so they can protect themselves from the townies? Newfoundlanders would be no different, and the Newfoundland government would scream bloody blue murder if the federal government did the same to them, and have. Racism is ugly. Racism justified by nationalistic dam projects is even uglier. It's evil, and it's unforgiveable.

EPILOGUE - Randy Simms, the man who made the racist tirade, ran for the Liberal Party here in 2015, lost, and word is he's been hired by the Liberal Party as a policy strategist...

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