Crees oppose hog farm project that would produce waste equaling a city of 100,000.

From mines, to damming, to logging, people in Eeyou Istchee have had their fair share of corporate development. The town of Chapais is now trying to add a pig farm to that long list of projects done without Native support.

Chapais is proposing to build an industrial pig farm, part of which will be located on a Cree tallyman’s land.

“A tallyman (Lawrence Dixon) came to my office and said he cannot accept the project because it was on his trap line,” said Waswanipi Chief Robert Kitchen. “Our position is not to accept such a project that would devastate the land in terms of polluting the water and the surrounding areas.”

The Waswanipi band council still has to meet the review committee to give them their position and voice their opposition. The topic will also be on the agenda at the next council board meeting.

The town of Chapais has been decreasing in population over the past decade. This project is seen as one which would help stimulate the economy and revive the town. To the Cree, this proposal is just another one of many that have failed in the past.

One of those failed projects was a huge landfill site that would have seen Chapais importing garbage from the northeastern U.S., as well as other parts of Quebec. This project never got off the ground thanks to the opposition from the Cree.

“There’s a lot of concern on the impact it’ll have on the local area as far as the odor and the effect it’ll have on the water,” said Brian Craik, spokesman for the Grand Council of the Cree. “There is also the question of tourism. No one wants to go up there from the south and have to deal with the smell of pig manure.”

Paul Wertman, an advisor to the Ouje Bougoumou band, concurred. “When we heard about it here in Ouje Bougoumou, it immediately rang a number of alarm bells for various reasons,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of experience with pig farms in boreal environments. Quebec as a whole has placed a moratorium on the development of any new pig farms. But for some reason the environment ministry has made an exception in this case.”

Wertman said that a pig farm of the size contemplated in Chapais “would generate waste which is equivalent to a human population of 100,000. We are not aware of any procedures to contain that kind of waste in any safe manner.”

He added that Ouje Bougoumou is currently in the process of identifying an expert in the field who can help them prepare for public hearings and get their case ready for the environmental review board.

Ouje Bougoumou has suggested other alternatives to Chapais, but they have not shown any interest. In fact, according to Wertman, the mayor didn’t even bother to show up for the scheduled meetings to discuss other viable economic proposals.

Waswanipi and Ouje Bougoumou are scheduled to meet with the Cree Public Health department in the next few weeks to discuss a common strategy in the fight against this project.

The mayor of Chapais and the economic development officer could not be reached for comment.