The four river diversions in the Innu homeland Nitassinan will primarily affect the community of Betsiamites. It is a community 300 kilometres to the west of ours. But the impact will touch everybody. To divert the four rivers will totally destroy the life of the wildlife in this area. The other impact will be on the traditional way of life. It will make it much harder for families to have access to the products of the land and of hunting. It will force families to relocate elsewhere, to go to other areas which are already affected by forestry. There is a lot of clearcutting in the region.
For us, it’s more the cumulative impacts, as we call them. Hydro development and the cutting of the forests which will follow have a cumulative impact. For years we have been feeling the after-effects here. As we are speaking, my friend, the region is feeling climactic changes. We’ve been noticing climactic changes for years. For example, on the Moisie River, which is well-known around the world for its salmon, it is very, very hard to find salmon. People are saying there is no more salmon there. They are worried.
It’s because it’s too cold. To the north of where we are, there are lakes that are still frozen up. This is abnormal, very abnormal. Normally the fish would swim upriver at this time of year, but with the low temperatures they aren’t doing this. We go by observation. The river is changing—the current also. It affects the salmon.
That’s one of the cumulative effects I was talking about. There is also a plan to divert two other rivers in our region which are tributaries of the Moisie and would reduce its water level. This would further affect the fish.
I am in the middle of finishing a document from the families in our community which will be presented this summer at the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. We will ask the UN to proclaim Nitassinan as a universal heritage zone and to protect this area from hydro and other development. There is a lot of development that is coming and this is very dangerous.