In 1988, frustrated by four years of ineffective protest against the presence of low-flying NATO aircraft over traditional hunting grounds, the Labrador Innu embarked on a program of civil disobedience. Blocking runways by sit-ins resulted in arrest for individual Innu, but also yielded publicity for their cause across Canada and throughout the world. As part of an agreement concluded by the federal government in 1984, NATO forces were permitted to engage in low-level flying and bomb test runs over territory that was the subject of a contentious and long-standing Innu land claim. Noting that these lands had never been surrendered, the Innu objected to these unlawful incursions. The Innu also claimed that jets making as many as 7,000 runs annually and flying at levels as low as 30 metres both alarmed local residents and disrupted caribou migration and calving patterns, thus interfering with hunting practices. The Innu have combatted not only federal indifference but also local ambivalence, as the NATO presence has buoyed the local economy. Various restrictions on the flights have been applied, but these have enjoyed limited effectiveness. Indeed, the federal government has failed to respond satisfactorily, and, in 1996, renewed the agreement with NATO for 10 years and agreed to an increase in annual flights.

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Chinook Multimedia

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