Chief Billy Diamond met with Resources Minister Guy Chevrette June 6 to discuss the possible diversion of the Great Whale and Rupert rivers. Will Nicholls interviewed him to get more details about HQ’s plans.

The Nation: I’m calling to discuss HQ’s new plans…

Chief Billy Diamond: I’ve checked out the information with Chevrette. There’s a problem with the water levels (see story, p. 5). The water-levels issue was one of those issues never settled in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The Crees have always claimed that the water levels were not sufficient. Now it’s coming to pass. It’s becoming an issue. It’s not only water levels for the La Grande complex but all hydro-electric installations in Quebec.

The government of Quebec has issued a decree asking for studies on the water levels. The government has also said to Hydro-Quebec that they did not have the authority to make any decisions, that they are being given the authority to do studies only. These studies are going to take some time and then based on the studies the government will take the decision, not Hydro-Quebec. The government will take the decision. Before they take the decision they will consult the Crees.

On the La Grande Complex in 1975, I’m referring to the Agreement, there’s a technical description of the complex in Section 8 of the Agreement. Based on that they need Cree consent. Cree consent is very clear on the issue. Following that, the government will consult with the Crees.

Based on that, the information that was in the newspaper (the June 7 edition of The Montreal Gazette -Ed.) was premature. They said any discussion without having the studies right now would be premature. They would ask that we would all wait for the studies to see what happens.

What time frame are we talking about?

I have no idea on that. That information I don’t have.

We were wondering about a lot of this with all the rumours walking around.

Yes, apparently there’s a group of engineers and also an organization of construction firms that are lobbying and pushing for some kind of projects to be initiated in Quebec. These studies included not only La Grande. They also include others.

The Quebec cabinet has been advised of the issue of the water levels but the only decision, according to Chevrette, is to do studies on the water levels. No project has been authorized.

The other issue is now anybody who produces electricity can use Hydro-Quebec’s transmission lines. So that brings the price of electricity down. And when the price of electricity goes down, the consumer gets very interested and wants to renegotiate contracts.

And the Crees may want to renegotiate themselves?

Well, that will probably come about if there are changes to Section 8 (technical description of the La Grande Complex changed to add other river diversions -Ed). Changes to Section 8 of the JBNQA require Cree consent and that requires negotiations with the Crees. It’s very clear and Chevrette understands that.

Do you see the fight for Great Whale or the Rupert in the same form as the last time?

It’ll be a different fight. It’ll be about water rights. This is a water-rights issue. The use of Lake Bienville as a reservoir and even the upper Rupert.

We’re talking about the R-11 trapline. This is east of the Route-du-Nord. It’s between Nemaska and Mistissini. Now we know why the Route-du-Nord was built.

So you think part of the reason was for these projects?

Absolutely. Basically that’s the story as I know it. That’s what I have. Basically it’s going to take two or three years before anything is going to happen on this water-level issue. If they speed it up it may be in the year. We’ll wait for the studies.

One of the things Chevrette said is with any work on these studies, HQ is obligated to go through the environmental and social-assessment process. So the studies can be caught by the Crees because we have representatives sitting on the various committees. So that’s the place to watch.