“The future is blurry”: The (hydro)power relations of the Muskrat Falls Project

Penney, Jessica (2023) “The future is blurry”: The (hydro)power relations of the Muskrat Falls Project. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Canadian Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project (MFP) has presented social, political, economic and wellbeing challenges to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for over a decade. Despite significant public discussion on the economic issues associated with MFP, the lived experience of Inuit from the affected area has received less attention. This research aims to share Inuit perspectives in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, the community anticipated to be most affected by the project, to inform health and social responses by government and grassroots organizations. Through a sociological approach guided by Indigenous research methodologies, this research employed culturally responsive and creative methods including semi-structured interviews, surveys, and participatory photography. The research found that participants positioned the MFP within the social and historical context of a previous (1960s-70s) hydroelectric project, the Upper Churchill Falls project, which shapes their contemporary questions and concerns. Participants also associate implementation of MFP with colonialism, as they feel they have not been adequately consulted or informed, a continuation of colonial hierarchies of knowledge. Rigolet residents also expressed uncertainty about the social, cultural, and health impacts of potential methylmercury contamination and wider environmental changes the project may cause. The power relations associated with the hydroelectric project has resulted in a ‘silencing’ of concerns over time, with some participants changing their diet because of contamination concerns for traditional foods critical to local diets, cultural practices, and connections to the land. Results of this study have important implications for public health and health risk communication strategies, as traditional foods and associated land-based activities are known to benefit Inuit physical, mental, and cultural health and wellbeing. Overall, the dissertation demonstrates how the MFP fits within a settler colonial structure within Canada, especially as Indigenous communities have been and continue to be sites for resource extraction. This system of exploitation contrasts with Inuit perspectives on the role and importance of the land and environment in social life and relationships. The research makes several recommendations for improving health risk communications, including the importance of: improved health risk communication; the delivery of clear scientific data; facilitating access to traditional foods; supporting safe ice and water travel; and improved consultation and environmental assessment processes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Inuit health, environmental contaminants, indigenous methodologies, Muskrat Falls Project.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Andrew and Davis, Dr. Alicia
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83537
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 09:20
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2023 09:26
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83537
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83537

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