Innu traditionalists say they are putting their lives on the line to stop SM-3.

“We will be exercising our legitimate Right to defend our Land as well as our Right to self-determination on that Land we call Nitassinan says the traditionalist Coalition For Nitassinan.

“Our action wishes to provoke a profound questioning of this society’s choices with regards to energy, social and environmental policies. If we must give up our lives in the process, then we are willing to assume such a cost. Our resistance will be non-violent, as defined by our traditions and ancestral values, and if Hydro-Quebec still wants to go ahead with SM-3, it will have to drive over our bodies to do so.”

On May 29, Innu traditionalists set up a blockade on the access road to the construction site for the SM-3 hydroelectric project. Work on SM-3 got underway April 18. The Innu said in a press release that the Sainte-Marguerite project is “provoking tensions that could well lead to a major social and political crisis.” SM-3 is just the first of three large hydro-projects planned by Hydro-Quebec in Nitassinan. Days later, members of the Solidarity Group With Native Peoples held a sit-in at Hydro offices in Montreal to protest against SM-3. No arrests were made.

The Coalition For Nitassinan charges that Ottawa and Quebec are “closing their eyes to the systematic abuse of power” by the Innu Band Council of Mani-Utenam and Uashat, two Innu communities at the mouth of the Moisie River. SM-3 would see the diversion of two of the river’s main tributaries.

The Band Council supports the $3-billion SM-3 project and is harassing the project’s opponents, according to Innu traditionalists. About 12 percent of the adult population of Mani-Utenam has spent time in jail due to the opposition to SM-3, and 41 people from the community face new criminal charges in June.

On June 13, the Innu will vote in a referendum on a compensation agreement reached between the Band Council and Hydro-Quebec for SM-3.

Hydro-Quebec is footing the $100,000 bill for the referendum. Innu traditionalists fear Hydro’s involvement throws into question the referendum’s objectivity.