Canada wants the Kyoto accord on climate change to be structured so as to give Canada credits for “clean” energy exports of hydroelectricity (and natural gas) to the U.S. But according to a joint statement of the Sierra Club of Canada and Pimicikamak Cree Nation of northern Manitoba, this plan would do little more than reduce the need for real emission reductions and cause further harm to Canada’s boreal forests. The statement quotes a panel of international religious authorities who describe the hydro project affecting the Pimicikamak Cree in northern Manitoba as “an ongoing ecological, social and moral catastrophe.” The statement also notes that hydro projects undermine the health of boreal forests, which are critical carbon sinks. “Clean” energy export credits would simply replace one environmental problem with another.

Pimicikamak Chief John Miswagon will speak about his people’s duty to protect their boreal homeland on Sept. 21 at the Forests of the Northern Lights conference in Winnipeg.

Most Canadian watersheds are impacted by hydro-electric projects as Canada is the world’s largest supplier of hydroelectric power. The majority of its 662 large dams are in the boreal. According to a 1996 government study, in Canada’s boreal shield, 85 per cent of rivers have been altered by hydro development, 77 per cent of drainage areas have major dams, 25 per cent have major reservoirs, and a third have rivers with either augmented or diminished flows as a result of diversions. Resulting impacts on ecosystems have serious consequences for the overall health of the boreal.

Hydro projects worth $40 billion are either under construction or consideration in Canada currently. Almost $8 billion of this would be the expansion of a megaproject that impacts the Pimicikamak Cree in northern Manitoba – including a proposed 800 km transmission corridor through a critical area of intact boreal forest.