Romeo Saganash is in hot water after delivering an anti-hydro rant in Burlington, Vermont, without the consent of his employer, the Grand Council of the Crees.
Grand Council Executive Director Bill Namagoose sent Saganash a letter November I requesting ameeting to clarify his Vermont speech. The letter also informed Saganash, who is the head of Quebec Relations for the Council, that any travel benefits or per diems would not be paid unless cleared by Namagoose directly.
“I can’t talk about that, it’s an internal matter and it will be dealt with internally,” Namagoose told the Nation. When asked about the repercussions of Romeo’s actions, Namagoose saidit was a personnel matter. “We’re talking about a man’s livelihood, his job,” he said. “I won’t comment on that.” It is unclear at this time what will happen to Saganash’s job at the Grand Council. The GCC learned of the speech in the U.S. after it was covered by Montreal newspaper Le Devoir.
The speech, delivered October 28, was filled with Saganash’s opinions on the EMI A Rupert River Diversion. Although Saganash could not be reached for comment, Namagoose confirmed that Saganashsaid he was acting on his own personal time and was not representing the Grand Council.
In a press release, the GCC distances itself from Saganash. “The Grand Council of the Crees wishes to clarify that Mr. Romeo Saganash does not work for the Grand Council as legal counsel, and secondly, he has not been mandated by the Council as a spokesperson on the Eastmain IA-Rupert Diversion Project or for the review process, but has spoken out in his personal capacity.”
It went on to say that the Grand Council recognizes Saganash’s right to speak as an individual, but emphasizes that the GCC fully supports the Paix des Braves Agreement with Quebec, signed in 2002.
Saganash’s speech was hard hitting from the start, beginning with the devastating effects the Rupert River diversion will have on trappers.
“In James Bay, more and more large hydro reservoirs in the context of climate changes, have contributed to unpredictable ice conditions which have resulted in trappers being unable to foresee weather patterns as they did before,” said Saganash. “I mention this one example of the impacts to be very clear from the start: huge hydro-electric development, damming major rivers such as the La Grande or the Rupert, do have impacts and the Crees have been living with these impacts for the past 30years. We therefore have intimate knowledge that clean hydro is a myth; simply not true!”
Saganash added that, for the Cree, the environmental impacts of hydro mega projects are of the same magnitude of nuclear, coal and gas projects. “More still, with mega hydro developments, wehave to add yet another impact of intense magnitude: the distress of the people that are being impacted and displaced and witnessing the alteration, sometimes the major flooding of their landand of the corresponding impacts on their traditional way of life. Let us never forget this whenwe consider hydro development.”
This comes as a surprise to most people as Saganash was seen as a supporter of the Paix des Braves and of the EM I A project when the New Relationship Agreement was signed.
He also questioned why Quebec government promises from the signing of the JBNQA in 1975 were only being fulfilled today, 30 years too late.
“According to Hydro-Quebec, almost half of all Quebec’s electricity comes from James Bay. Of ourmajor rivers, 16 of them have been diverted, dried-up, flooded or affected in some way or another (and that’s not counting numerous small and medium-sized rivers). In all, 12,600 square kilometres of our territory has been flooded. Now our land is totally fragmented, due to the roads that were necessary to build all those dams. On top of that, two of our communities have been relocated to allow or because of these developments.”
Saganash ended his speech by encouraging alternatives to “dirty” hydroelectric power and the dams that come with it.
“Speaking just for the Cree part, I can tell you that we now have better, greener projects ready to go, alternatives including wind power. About wind power, and despite its problems, just remind yourself that a wind tower can be taken off the surface of the earth, dismantled, with little trace or damage. But totally destroying a living river can never be undone and repaired.
“These Cree alternatives projects are not only environmentally greener, but for us they alsomean involving our young people from the start, giving them the education, the training but also the pride of being part of a new contract with the rest of North America: to produce and distribute our green, Cree energy to Quebec, Ontario and the northern US states. In partnershipwith all of you, Quebec, and the US. And to us, that is a much better option for our collectivefuture.”