Val d’Or’s L’Echo newspaper reports that the people of Eastmaln are open to Hydro-Quebec’s proposed Eastmaln hydro project.

The newspaper ran a story on July 28 with this headline: “The Crees of Eastmain are interested In a partnership.”

It quotes Eastmain Chief Kenneth Gilpin speaking favourably about the $2-billion-plus project, which would see the diversion of the Rupert River,

Twenty years ago, Crees may have rejected the project, Gilpin is reported as saying. “But we are in 1999,” he goes on. “We are heading into a new millenium. I think the Crees have understood now that they must learn to accept changes. People are more open,” Gilpin says.

“We are going in a good direction. It is time to accept this type of change, above all if the Cree Nation is very young.”

A second story in the same issue says Hydro-Quebec is hoping to announce the project in Eastmain on Nov. 11 – the 25th anniversary of the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975.

But some Eastmain members feel the article is misleading. “To me, it came as a surprise,” said Ted Moses, an Eastmain member who is also the Cree ambassador to the United Nations. “I think the paper didn’t get its facts right.”

Moses said he was present at a community assembly July 27 to 29, where the hydro project was discussed in the presence of top Hydro-Quebec officials.

Moses said the people who spoke up were all against the project, with no exceptions. “As far as I know,
there was a consensus that people didn’t want the hydro project. Everybody who voiced an opinion said we have had enough hydro development,” he said.

“There were a lot of emotions expressed about how people feel about the loss of land in the first project. No one said we’ll accept partnerships.”

Gilpin couldn’t be reached for comment.

Moses also said he is concerned about Gilpin’s comments on hydro development at the Annual General Assembly earlier this month. A resolution to oppose hydro projects was deferred after Gilpin said he hadn’t yet consulted his community on the hydro project.

Moses said people have already made their opinion clear. “How much more consultation do we need when people say we don’t want hydro-electric development, period?”

Sylvain Paradis, the journalist who wrote the stories, told The Nation he stands by his story and is confident he quoted Gilpin accurately. He said he interviewed Gilpin on July 23, before the community assembly.

While in Eastmain, Hydro-Quebec’s officials promised to respect any Cree decision on whether the partnership deal will go ahead. The utility has offered to let Crees invest in the project in exchange for a cut of the profits. But H-Q has offered few details of what exactly the joint venture would look like, like how much Crees would have to invest. Despite the negative reception, Hydro vice-president Thierry Vandal reportedly said he was still “optimistic” after the meeting in Eastmain.