International Network of Groups Protest Against Canadian Megadams

Operations Destroy Rivers and Traditional Lands of First Nations

Emily Pomilio (480) 286-0401,

New Brunswick, C.A.--An international alliance of hydro-dam opponents hosted a rally and press conference today outside of the annual Northeastern US Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference where leaders discuss international trade and energy policy. The protest brought together allies from the U.S. and Canada fighting to stop megadams and their transmission corridors. The US and Canadian leaders refused the groups’ request to hear from Indigenous frontline communities and their allies about the negative impacts of Canadian hydropower including cultural genocide, and environmental, economic and social damage. 

A leading concern of First Nations community members is the poisoning of local wild foods caused when naturally occurring mercury in the river bottom’s soil which converts to toxic methylmercury and enters the food supply. A 2016 Harvard University study of dozens of dams proposed or under construction in Canada found that 99% of dams expose Indigenous populations to unacceptable levels of methylmercury. In August 2019, Nalcor Energy began filling the Muskrat Falls dam reservoir, ignoring the Harvard Study recommendations.  

New Canadian megadams and U.S. transmission corridors are underway through Maine (NECEC/CMP), New York (Champlain Hudson Power Express) and Vermont (Clean Energy Link). Despite international opposition, and over 70 years of the destruction of rivers and communities, the Canadian hydro industry and government officials are aggressively marketing this energy to the U.S. as  “zero carbon” and “renewable.”

Groups opposing the dams and transmission corridors provided their comments below: 

“Failing to take mitigation measures at Muskrat Falls for methylmercury, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball repeatedly betrayed our trust by refusing to address our concerns, opting instead to place the health, culture and way of life of Labrador Innuit at risk,” President Lampe of the Nunatsiavut Government, an Inuit First Nation said.

"It’s time for Canada to right the wrongs of Muskrat Falls in Labrador and ensure mitigation occurs for the flooding of the reservoir and stop future damage by halting the next mega dam planned, Gull Island,” Gretchen Fitzgerald,  National Program Director of Sierra Club Canada said. “Canada has signed onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and at the same time has backed this project with a $ 2.9 billion loan guarantee. We now know that methyl-mercury poisoning will taking away the hunting and fishing rights of indigenous communities downstream. This is particularly egregious because mothers and children are especially at risk from the effects of eating food contaminated with methyl-mercury."

“This is cultural genocide and we must stop the projects and the governments,” Rita Monias of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Manitoba and member of Wa Ni Ska Tan said.

“By turning their backs on us and refusing our request to meet in Saint John, the U.S. Governors and Canadian Premiers are showing their complicity in the poisoning of an important food source by methylmercury contamination. Additionally, they’re destroying the boreal forests for reservoirs and transmission lines and causing the destruction of important fish habitat and species in the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of Maine and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, due to sediment and nutrients needed for their survival being trapped behind so many dams,” Roberta Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador said. “Labrador's Churchill River, called the Mishtashipu or Big River by the Innu, who relied on its bounties for physical and spiritual survival for millenia. Today, there are two massive hydropower projects here that have irreversibly destroyed what once was the most important valley for Labrador's cultural and environmental heritage--and a third is planned.”

“U.S. Governors Baker and Mills could never survive the political backlash of supporting a project like this in New England, yet they support the transmission corridor through the forests of Maine to bring this dirty hydropower to Boston. They should not turn their backs on the Indigenous communities in allies in Canada who suffer the consequences of this energy supplied to New England," Meg Sheehan, Coordinator for the North American Megadams Resistance said. "Hydropower is not renewable energy. It destroys rivers, forests and wetlands and these communities cannot be “renewed” once megadams like Hydro-Quebec’s James Bay project destroy areas of forests and rivers that are as big as the State of New York. In addition, Canadian dams and their reservoirs are major drivers of climate change, emitting CO2 and methane. The Canadian Premiers’ attempt to market this power as clean is a greenwash.”

“Polling shows a majority of Mainers are opposed to the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission corridor through Maine that is proposed by Central Maine Power/Avangrid/Iberdrola and Hydro-Quebec. We recognize the vast damage this electrical transmission line would have on Maine's environment, wetlands, waterways, wildlife habitat, recreation tourism and biomass industries. The source of the power from Hydro-Quebec's megadams is very concerning and we refute their claims that this hydropower is 'green' or 'renewable',” Sandi Howard Director, Say NO to NECEC said. “Hydro-Quebec is currently selling power to markets in New York and Ontario, but would shift to selling to Massachusetts for a premium rate. It's clear that this existing hydropower does not meet the definition of renewable. We also have grave concerns about HQ's impoundments, which raised methylmercury levels in the water resulting in irreversible damage to fish habitat, and primary food and water sources for First Nation people. We don't want this power to come to the United States."

Full list of those that joined the protest: Labrador Land Protectors, United American Indians of New England, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, The Council of Canadians, Sierra Club, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, North American Megadam Resistance Alliance, Global Justice Ecology Project, Biofuelwatch, New Community Project, Say NO to NECEC  (Maine), Jones River Watershed Association, New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, 350 Maine, RESTORE: The North Woods, Toxics Action Center

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The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit