Is the dreaded Great Whale project slowly and quietly moving ahead despite the opposition of the Cree people?
Ghislain Ouellet, executive vice-president of Hydro-Quebec, told The Nation the utility has already met Cree representatives twice to discuss new hydro projects and other issues. Also discussed: “the conditions under which development could occur.”
At the meetings, Hydro asked Crees to invest their own money in future hydroelectric projects in lyiyuuschii. In exchange, Crees would get a cut of the revenues based on how much they invest, Ouellet said.
Chief Matthew Mukash of Whampagoo-stui did not know of the discussions until he was told by The Nation. He was angered by Hydro’s proposal, pointing out that Crees voted twice last year to oppose any future development of the Great Whale River.
Last summer, The Nation exposed new Hydro plans to divert the Great Whale and Rupert rivers into existing reservoirs through a series of canals.
Under Hydro’s latest proposal, Crees would invest “a certain amount of money” and be a junior partner in any new projects, Ouellet said. Crees would have no role in operating the projects, a job that would be left to HQ. But Crees would be legally liable for up to whatever they invested.
“We are interested in doing things together,” Ouellet said.
Cree officials won’t comment on the meetings, referring all questions to Grand Chief MatthewCoon Come. He did not return several phone calls.
Chief Mukash is not amused. “For us, we’re not going to budge, even if they offer $10 billion. We’re not going to budge.
“They’re going to offer all kinds of goodies. Let them first pay us what they owe us. Then we can talk about revenue-sharing,” he said, referring to the 300 unfulfilled obligations of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Mukash said the meetings with Hydro-Quebec were started to discuss these unfulfilled obligations, not new projects. “This is what the task force is about, to talk about what Hydro-Quebec owes us.”
He was frustrated with how the discussions are proceeding. “We didn’t even know if there had been meetings with Hydro-Quebec. We know nothing. We’re not told.
I knew of one meeting; that’s about it.
“I have a problem with the Cree Nation negotiating with a multinational corporation without an agreement with the Quebec gov-ernment on a framework,” Mukash said.
Last July, Whapmagoostui residents voted 92-per-cent against any development projects on their river. Later in the summer, delegates at the Annual General Assembly unanimously upheld the community’s vote.
Said Mukash, “The AGA said no to future projects. They are dead-set against it.
“What I don’t understand is why Hydro-Quebec is telling everyone they’re negotiating with the Crees.”
The three-member Cree task force that has been meeting with HQ has not yet issued a report to theelected Crees who sit on the Council/ Board of the GCCEA/CRA.