Cree chiefs and community representatives to the Council/Board came together in VaJ d’Or on November 24 to talk about Hydro-Quebec’s co-ownership proposal for a dam on the Eastmain River.
They decided no individual Cree community could say yes; this has to be done by all the Crees. Also, the Grand Council of the Crees will be involved in the decision, they decided. This seemed to be a turnaround from previous reports that the Grand Council would be shut out.
“There’s nothing good about EM-1,” said Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. “It’s a new project and Crees at the moment have no mandate to discuss new projects.”
Coon Come said Crees still have to develop a response to HQ’s proposals. “We will prepare, analyze, scrutinize and what-ever-ize we have to do,” he said. Coon Come said community consultations would play a part in determining the Cree stance.
Mistissini Chief Kenny Loon agreed, saying the best route would be a community referendum, which he noted require 60 per cent of the eligible voters participating for it to be binding.
Hydro is proposing to build a dam on the Eastmain River and divert the Rupert. The project would cost $2.2 to $3 billion. Hydro has proposed that Crees invest their own money for a cut of the action.
Coon Come said the Council/Board is at the stage of gathering information and telling people of “Hydro-Quebec’s madness and their obsession with building dams.” He said the next step is community consultations, creating a land-use plan, getting information to analyze the project, looking at the impact and involving the trappers, among other things.
“We gave permission to Hydro to proceed and make presentations to the communities. We, at the Grand Council, will not act as promoters or try to explain Hydro’s projects. It’s up to Hydro to do that,” said Coon Come.
Coon Come said the Grand Council feels Crees should at least be allowed to hear what HQ wants to do in the Cree territory. “But I want to make it clear as Grand Chief that we do not have a mandate to consider new projects.”
While there is a regional Cree task force meeting with Hydro-Quebec, Mistissini has created its own. They have been looking at HQ’s plans, too. Mistissini’s task force has determined that there would be three groups that would have the final say on the project. These are the affected tallymen, the families of the affected tallymen and others who occasionally hunt on the impacted traplines.
Loon admits there was a concern that the impacted groups could be pressured by those who want the project. But Loon said Mistissini will allow them to make up their own minds. Loon promised that the Mistissini band will never negotiate without a mandate from the people.
“I think people are afraid sometimes. They think the chief and council are already negotiating. We won’t do that.”
It looks to be a long process, but this doesn’t bother Coon Come. “We are in no hurry. We have no timetable. It’s our duty to get the information for the people and trappers.”