The Grand Council of the Crees has pulled out of an international conference on First Nations and hydro-developments because of fears that the event is biased in favour of big utilities like Hydro-Quebec. The Grand Council learned that one of the main organizers, Quebec environmentalist David Cliche, has a contract with Hydro-Quebee to meet with U.S. environmental groups.

The forum, planned for April in Montreal, will coincide with Hydro-Quebec’s 50th anniversary. It is sponsored by the World Bank, Ottawa, the Quebec government, Hydro-Quebec, Manitoba Hydro and two international environmental agencies. Also participating is Inuit leader Charlie Watt, president of Makivik Corporation.

David Cliche is working with Watt and a local environmental group to organize the three-day conference. Cliche also heads a coalition of groups taking part in the environmental review of the Great Whale project. He is also the Parti Quebecois’s liaison officer with the First Nations.

Crees had originally looked forward to taking part in the conference, said Brian Craik, the Grand Council’s federal-relations director. “Cliche was clearly on Hydro’s side,” said Craik.

Cliche responded by saying half the speakers at the conference are indigenous people; the other half are hydro

promoters and planners. “I don’t think it’s biased at all,” he said. “The Crees didn’t want Hydro-Quebec to have a speaker. I think that’s unfair. They’re trying to undermine the credibility of the conference.” Cliche conceded that he has a contract with Hydro-Quebec, but said that hasn’t made him biased.