05/16/2013 01:30 EDT | Updated 07/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Inuit-Metis of southern Labrador file complaint against RCMP after arrests

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. - The group that represents the Inuit-Metis of southern Labrador has launched a complaint alleging the RCMP discriminated against them during a protest against the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project last month.

The NunatuKavut (noon-ah-TWO'-ha-voot) Community Council, which filed the complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said it believes members of their group were unfairly treated when the RCMP arrested eight people during the April 5 protest.

"We are concerned that there was an unreasonable infringement of our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as manifested through peaceful protest," council president Todd Russell said in a statement Thursday.

At the time of the arrests, the Mounties said the protesters were blocking the Trans-Labrador Highway. The council disputes that, saying they slowed down but didn't obstruct traffic.

Russell, who was among those arrested, said the RCMP's response to their protest stands in stark contrast to how the Mounties respond to protests by other aboriginal groups across Canada.

"In all other cases that we are aware of, police co-operated with protesters and allowed them to exercise their rights," Russell said. "Only in the case of NunatuKavut were these rights trampled on by the RCMP."

At the time, eight people were charged with obstructing a peace officer. Their cases are still before the courts.

RCMP Sgt. Marc Coulombe said he couldn't comment on the complaint since it is before the commission.

The council has repeatedly protested against Muskrat Falls on environmental grounds, saying it believes the development is being pushed through its territory.

The $7.7-billion project aims to generate power from Churchill Falls and electricity would then be sent to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia via transmission lines and subsea cables.