Open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada from scholars concerned about the Muskrat Falls dam

To: Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Minister of Youth

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

We are scholars and researchers writing to express our deep concern over the Muskrat Falls Dam project on Labrador’s Churchill River.

Scheduled to begin operation in 2020, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is led by a Provincial Crown Corporation, but heavily financed by the Canadian federal government (1,2). The controversial dam was initiated in 2011 through the ‘New Dawn Agreement’. This agreement made the Innu Nation land claim agreement contingent upon their support for the dam (3), despite federal commitments to free, prior and informed consent in projects impacting Indigenous people. Muskrat Falls has since been subject to dramatic, multi-billion dollar cost overruns that threaten to bankrupt Newfoundland and Labrador, and double household energy bills in the province (4). In 2016, researchers from Harvard University raised urgent concerns about the dam’s safety and environmental impacts (5). Even the CEO of the Crown Corporation – Nalcor – has referred to the dam as a “boondoggle” based on “faulty, high-risk assumptions” that “should not have been done.” (6) Indigenous land protectors have been resisting the project (7). They have blockaded the work site and sustained a long-term ‘peace camp’ (8). Indigenous elders have been incarcerated for participating in these actions (9).

The Muskrat Falls Project poses tremendous risks to Indigenous peoples and sovereignty (10), to Canada’s commitment to reconciliation (11), to fish, wildlife and the broader integrity of the Churchill River ecology, and to provincial and federal public finances. The undersigned are concerned about methylmercury poisoning from the dam construction that threatens marine ecology, as well as the food source and economic activity of a number of Indigenous nations. We are concerned about the risk of a catastrophic dam break on the North Spur, a natural formation composed of quick clay that has never been subject to an independent engineering study. These risks are compounded by the fact that Indigenous peoples directly affected by the dam have not provided free, prior and informed consent for the project, as required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which your government has committed to implement.

Your government has already invested $9.2 billion into the Muskrat Falls Dam project (12), yet this pales in comparison to projections which suggest that the completion of the dam could cost as much as $78 billion (13), all for a project that will bring little to no benefit and will likely result in higher electricity rates in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The project presents real and substantial social, ecological and economic risks if it proceeds on the current course. We are therefore asking your government to:

1. Halt all work on the dam, along with Nalcor and the Province, until you have received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples affected by the dam and met the conditions below.

2. Appoint an independent inquiry into the stability of the North Spur.

3. Implement the original recommendations of the 2016 Harvard University study and seconded by an Independent Experts Advisory Committee if the dam is to proceed, for full clearance of brush, trees, and topsoil, along with the capping of the wetlands, at the Muskrat Falls reservoir to prevent the bioaccumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury.

Deborah Cowen, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow
Milad Parpouchi, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Pierre Cloutier de Repentigny, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Ottawa
Andrew Kaufman, University of Toronto, Canada
Jayne Malenfant, 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Scholar, McGill University, Canada
Professor Adelle Blackett, McGill University
E. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Bonnie Campbell, Professor, Universite du Quebec a Montreal
Jane Hutton, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo, School of Architecture
Dr. James P. Nugent, University of Waterloo, Canada
Anne Meneley, Professor, Trent University
Dr Melanie Richter-Montpetit, University of Sheffield, UK
Justin Kong, Graduate Researcher, University of Toronto
Natasha Myers, Associate Professor, York University, Canada
Professor Elizabeth Littlejohn
Federico Andrade-Rivas, Population and Public Health PhD Student, University of British Columbia
Emily Gilbert, Associate Professor, Director of Canadian Studies Program, University of Toronto
Kevin Edmonds, University of Toronto
Dr. Shiri Pasternak, Ryerson University, Canada
Simon Vickers, Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada
Anna Dion, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, McGill University
Paul Emiljanowicz, Doctoral Candidate, McMaster University, Canada
Dr. Val Marie Johnson, Chair, Dept. of Social Justice & Community Studies, Saint Mary’s University (Mi’kma’ki)
Dr Lisa Tilley, Queen Mary, University of London
D. Alissa Trotz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Alec Butler, University of Toronto
Kelly Fritsch, Assistant Professor, Carleton University, Canada
Alina Sajed (Associate Professor, McMaster University)
J. Marshall Beier, Professor, McMaster University
Rianne Mahon Professor Wilfrid Laurier University
Aytak Akbari-Dibavar, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, York University
Calvin ZL Lincez, PhD Candidate, York University
Caren Kaplan, Professor, UC Davis, USA
Reecia Orzeck, Illinois State University, USA
Hector Agredano, Geography Instructor, Pasadena City College, USA
Michelle Caplan, phd Canadidate, university of western ontario
Dr. K. Jirgens, University of Windsor
Natalie Kouri-Towe, Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Konstantin Kilibarda, Graduate Researcher, Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC), York University (Canada)
Tyler Carson, Rutgers University
Emily Simmonds (Métis), PhD candidate, Department of STS, York University
Ajay Parasram, Assistant Professor International Development Studies and History, Dalhousie University,
Veronika Reichert, PhD Candidate, York University
gloria matei, York University
Atiqa Hachimi, University of Toronto, Canada
Dr. Sharri Plonski, Queen Mary University of London
Laura Macdonald, Professor, Carleton University, Canada
Jason Laurendeau, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lethbridge
James FitzGerald, PhD Candidate York University
Judy Davidson, Associate Professor, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB Canada
Sarah Naumes, Ph.D. Candidate, York University, Canada
Amanda Wilson, Assistant Professor, Saint Paul University, Canada
Alex Moldovan, PhD Student, York University
Angel Bravo, Former Visiting Assistant Professor in CSE Department at Miami University
Dr. Randolph B. Persaud, School of Int’L Service, American University, Washington DC, USA
Jody Berland, Professor, York University, Canada
Jason Edward Lewis, University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary
Mike Ekers, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Katherine Cramer, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability UBC
Anthony W. Persaud, PhD student, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Angie Fazekas, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada
Zakia salime associate professor Rutgers
Inderpal Grewal, Professor, Yale university
Jane Stinson, Adjunct Research Professor, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University, Canada
Omar Sirri, PhD Candidate, Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada
Arsalan Kahnemuyipor
TRINH Hong Loan, lecturer at University of Quebec in Montreal
Clara MacCallum Fraser, PhD Student, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies, CITY Institute, Canada
Aparna Mishra Tarc, Associate Professor, York University
Dr. Anna Zalik, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada
Mariana Valverde, Professor, University of Toronto
Jen Preston, PhD, Canada
Alison Howell, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, United States
Mark Hunter, University of Toronto
Ayden Scheim, PhD, CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow, UC San Diego
Bronwyn Frey, PhD student, University of Toronto
Maegan Miller, City University of New York, USA
Ivana Z. Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, UBC, Canada
Jen Jones, PhD Candiate, University of Guelph
Sharry Aiken, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
Christine Nugent
Dr. Heather Kertyzia, California State Dominguez Hills, USA
Karen Bakker
Peter Fitting, professor emeritus, University of Toronto
Professor Sue Ruddick University of Toronto
Natalie Zemon Davis, C.C. Professor of History, University of Toronto, Canada
Paul Manning, Professor of Anthropology, Trent University, Canada
Ayelen Liberona, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
V. Ambros Ph.D. Uof T, Canada
James Deutsch, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Donald C Cole, Professor, University of Toronto
Alejandro Paz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Sarah Wakefield, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Susan Antebi, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Lena Mortensen, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada
Lora Senechal Carney, Associate Prof. Emerita, University of Toronto, Canada
Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Derek Denis, Assistant Professor, Language Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
Chandler Davis, Professor, University of Toronto
John P. Portelli, Professor, University of Toronto
Anne McGuire, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
M. Bollers
Agi Lukacs, Sr. Lecturer Emerita, University of Toronto
Andrea Muehlebach, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Katie Kilroy-Marac, Anthropology, University of Toronto
Suzanne Sicchia, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Anup Grewal, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Professor Tanya Titchkosky, Social Justice Education, OISE of the University of Toronto
Maria C Cuervo, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Dina Goergis, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Dr. Lindsay Stephens, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada
Lake Sagaris, Laboratorio de Cambio Social, Chile
Gavin Smith, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto
Kanishka Goonewardena, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
Dr. Abigail B. Bakan
Leah Montange, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
Adonica Huggins, Student Life Coordinator, Academic and Peer Programs, University of Toronto, Canada
Neil Nunn, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
Dr. Maureen FitzGerald, Fellow, Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto
Ben Verboom, Doctoral Candidate and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Kevin Gould, Dept of Geography, Concordia University, Montreal, QC
Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada Research Chair and 2018 Trudeau Fellow
Farshid Baghai, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University, USA
Philip Son, MA student, University of Toronto
Laura Koltutsky, Associate Librarian University of Calgary
Sophie de Saussure, 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Ottawa
Madelaine Khan, recent MA graduate, York University
Tim K. Takaro, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Trycia Bazinet, PhD student, Vanier 2018 Scholar, Carleton University
Dr. Tammara Soma, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto
Matthew Farish, Associate Professor, Geography & Planning, University of Toronto
Tricia Snell, Writer
Jesse A. Thistle, Ph.D. Candidate, Trudeau-Vanier Scholar, York University
Audra Simpson, Professor, Columbia University
Samuel Blouin, PhD candidate, Université de Montreal
Ashlin Wolf, undergraduate, Carleton University
Billy-Ray Belcourt, 2018 PETF Scholar, University of Alberta
Ken MacDonald, University of Toronto
Dr. Erika Bockstael, 2014 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Manitoba
Nickie Van Lier, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
Rumee Ahmed, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
T.L Cowan, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information & Department of Arts, Culture & Media, University of Toronto
Tamara Vukov, Professeure Adjointe, Université de Montreal
Dr. Heather Igloliorte, Associate Professor, Concordia University
Elizabeth Johnson, Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Durham University, UK
Dr. Oscar Garza, UDLAP (Mexico)
Nakanyike Musisi, Associate Professor
Bryan Dale, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
Krista Maxwell, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Ju Hui Judy Han, Assistant Professor, UCLA, US
Patrick Vitale, Assistant Professor, Eastern Connecticut State University, USA
Dr. Martine August, University of Waterloo, Canada
Kevin Bruyneel, Professor of Politics, MA, US
Suzanne, Mills, Associate Professor, McMaster University
Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University
Nick Estes (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico, USA
Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Victoria
Robert Nichols, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota
Jaskiran Dhillon, Associate Professor Global Studies and Anthropology, The New School, USA
Andrea Marston, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley, USA
Zoe Meletis, Associate Professor of Geography, UNBC, Canada
V.K.Preston, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Sheehan Moore, PhD student, CUNY Graduate Center
Sandy Grande, Professor Education, Connecticut College
Danika Medak-Saltzman Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies, University of Colorado Boulder
Nathan Lemphers, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto; Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar
Tarren Andrews, Ph.D. Student, CU Boulder, Colorado, USA
Jessica Cattelino, Department of Anthropology, UCLA
Nhung Tuyet Tran, University of Toronto
Nicole Power, PhD, Associate Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Mishuana Goeman, Associate Prof, UCLA Chair of AIS, Associate Director of AISC
Lindy Van Vliet, PhD Candidate, Carleton University
Amira Mittermaier, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Glen Coulthard, UBC First Nations and Indigenous Studies
Joanne L. Rondilla, Assistant Professor, San Jose State University, United States of America
Sarah Mason-Case, SJD Candidate University of Toronto Faculty of Law; Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar
Annie Booth, Professor, University of Northern British Columbia
Michelle Raheja, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
Dr. Amelia Fay, Curator, Manitoba Museum, Canada
Shari Huhndorf, Professor, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Prof Emerita Patricia Penn Hilden
Tahnee Prior, Ph.D. Candidate and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, University of Waterloo, Canada
Anne Spice, PhD candidate, CUNY Graduate Center
Alexis Mitchell, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Canada
Rebecca Sutton, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics
Margaux L Kristjansson, PhD Candidate, Columbia University
Bailey Gerrits, 2015 PETF Scholar, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University
Margaret Little, Sir Edward Peacock Chair in Gender and Politics, Queen’s University
Zannah Matson, PhD Student, University of Toronto
Elaine Power, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Queen’s University, Canada
Daisy Raphael, 2013 Vanier Scholar, PhD Candidate University of Alberta
Marin Ingalise Beck, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University
Daniel Voth, Assistant Professor, University of Calgary, Department of Political Science
Chris White, PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, Halifax, Canada
Celia Romulus. PhD candidate, Queen’s University, Canada
Denise Réaume, Professor of Law, University of Toronto, Canada
Ken Derry, Associate Professor (Teaching Stream), University of Toronto
Éloïse Décoste, PhD Candidate, Faculte de Science Politique et de droit, Universite du Quebec a  Montreal (UQAM)
Eleanor MacDonald, Associate Professor, Queen’s University, Canada
Laure Muller, MAS Candidate, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, US
Dana Decent, University of Waterloo, Canada
Rebecca Comay, Professor, University of Toronto
Jordan B. Kinder, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta, Canada
Lib Spry, PhD candidate Cultural Studies, Queens University
Michael Laurentius, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto)
Adam Lewis, PhD Candidate, York University, ‘Canada’
Alan Sears, Professor, Sociology, Ryerson University
Teresa Hubel, Professor, Huron University College
Clayton Dasilva, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo
Raphoz Marie, UQAM University
Stephane G. Marceau, professeure adjointe, Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, INRS