Crees are shouldering the burden of Quebec’s energy choices, says the Grand Council in a brief to the Public Commission on Quebec’s Energy Future.

Almost half of Quebec’s energy production takes place on Cree ancestral lands, said the GCCQ, and Crees are entitled to a special role in any reflections on energy policy. This has not happened. Information about energy projects is hard to obtain, the GCCQ says, and no regulatory board exists to force Hydro-Quebec to provide information.

The GCCQ is not opposed to all development and will cooperate with projects that are sustainable and in the interest of the Crees, involve Crees in the design process and resource sharing, and give them veto over development.

But in its brief, Hydro-Quebec rejects any notion of Native claims to resource or royalty sharing. The utility does say a regulatory agency should be set up to look at Hydro’s rates and the justification of projects. Hydro admits it still considers the U.S. market as a potential customer.

The good news is Hydro says megaprojects are obsolete and will instead concentrate on medium-sized projects and possibly wind power.

The energy commission met in Whapmagoostui on Sept. 12, but wasn’t well prepared in advance. Chiefs received a French-language-only letter just two weeks before. This letter was not sent to the GCCQ. With no advance notice, only four Crees attended besides some leaders.

Chief Abel Bosum made a presentation concerning Ouje-Bougoumou. “An essential ingredient of our successes has been that we have been encumbered neither by slow-moving bureaucracies nor by conventional thinking about urban planning nor by the so-called wisdom of conventional engineering and energy planning,” he said.

Chief Bosum said his community’s award-winning district heating system has benefitted residents in many ways.

Heating costs are down, capital costs have been recovered, jobs created and lower operating costs are leading to housing self-sufficiency. Bosum said the Ouje-Bougoumou experience could lend itself to the province as a whole.