Makivik Corporation has agreed not to delay the Great Whale River Project in exchange for $100 million in compensation, promises of contracts for Inuit entrepreneurs and a training centre.

“If Great Whale is done properly, this project could have positive impacts, namely on job creation, training, contracts with Inuit firms and the establishment of joint ventures,” said Makivik President Simeonie Nalukturuk at a joint press conference on April 14 given by the Inuit administrative body and Hydro-Quebec.

Zebedee Nungak, first Vice-President of Makivik, said the Inuit entered the agreement for “pragmatic” reasons because they couldn’t stop the Great Whale project. “Our people have done a lot of deep thinking to stop it [the project]. How can our people mitigate the impacts on our geography and people, and how can we benefit? We’re taking a very pragmatic approach.” Hydro-Quebec President Armand Couture insisted that the utility has the legal power to go ahead with the Great Whale project without any agreements with the Inuit and Crees, once ongoing environmental-assessment hearings are over. “I think we have the necessary legal framework to proceed with the project.”

The payments will be spread out over a 50-year period. An amount of $30 million in current dollars will be paid as soon as Hydro-Quebec decides to proceed with construction of the Great Whale project. An additional $21 million will be paid over the seven-year construction period. After that, the Inuit will get $12 million more per year for 42 years. All that adds up to $555 million. But due to inflation and depreciation, it means about $102 million in today’s dollars if Hydro-Quebec gets its construction license in 1997 as planned.

Nalukturuk emphasized that the deal signed on April 14 is only an agreement-in-principle, and that a final agreement will be signed within 18 months.

“Let me state clearly that in signing this agreement, we are in no way giving up our right to decide whether we are for or against this project,” he said, adding that Inuit participation in environmental hearings will continue.

“The money will help us assess the negative impacts of the project so we can make a final decision after the environmental-assessment hearings.”

But Nalukturuk and Nungak seemed confused when a journalist at the press conference asked how the money will help in making this decision if it will only be given out after construction starts.

Nungak asked the journalist to repeat his question, and when he did they didn’t answer directly, saying only that Makivik is involved in talks with Hydro-Quebec.