“Let the process go on,” says Hydro-Quebec in response to the latest Cree criticism of the utility’s Great Whale impact study.

Six months of public hearings are underway to determine whether the 5,000-page study conforms to the environmental-impact guidelines set by five environmental review committees looking into the Great Whale River Project. The hearings end in August.

This did not stop Matthew Coon Come from condemning both the review process and the document itself in a press conference on June 16 in Quebec City.

Matthew said Hydro-Quebec undertook the feasibility study without prior consultations with the Crees and without understanding the environment which they are a part of. Government funding will be cut to a joint Support Office and Technical Expertise by 30 per cent or more. The governments have also refused to continue funding for intervenors such as the Crees, Inuit and third parties. Also, there are no aboriginal members on the Environmental Assessment Review Panel; this may be a breach of the laws governing this process, since the law requires the panel to have knowledge and experience of the social and bio-physical environment.

These are just some of the Grand Chief’s complaints about the review process. “Isolated examples of non-conformity would be understandable in a project of this magnitude and a document this size—5,000 pages—but the violations are so frequent and extensive that the proponent’s feasibility study is invalid as a tool for an independent review of the project,” said Coon Come, explaining why he believes Hydro-Quebec should scrap the g study and do it again.

“It can no longer be the minimal environmental review process “ that we’ve seen in the past. The Great Whale review process is supposed to be both innovative and creative. When you look at what Hydro-Quebec has done in what they call an intensive 11-year study, you start to realize that they are attempting business-as-usual,” said Coon Come in an interview with The Nation.

Hydro-Quebec did much of the impact study in the 1980s, long before the guidelines were even set. Coon Come said this is contrary to the intent of the review process. “That is why we are asking the committees to reject the study and make Hydro-Quebec submit one that is within the guidelines.”

Coon Come also said the review process has been “undermined” by a compensation agreement signed with the Inuit, in which they signed away their right to oppose the Great Whale project.

“It is a direct conflict-of-interest since the only way the Inuit get any money is if the dam project is approved, and they have already signed away their right to oppose it! Futhermore, because of that agreement, the design of the project has changed. For example, they added a road. This isn’t the design presented originally to the Crees and other interested parties. They changed the design during the process without consultation with all parties concerned. Surely they cannot expect this to be within the guidelines of the public process.”

A Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman said the utility has created a “state of the art” study that conforms to the guidelines of the process.

Anything that Matthew Coon Come says only reflects the opinion of the Crees and the final judges are the five review committees, she said.