Inuit mayors in two of the communities most affected by the Great Whale River Project had mixed reactions to Makivik’s April 14 agreement-in-principle with Hydro-Quebec.
Umiujaq Mayor Ernest Tumic said he supports the deal. “We wouldn’t have signed if we thought it was a bad deal.”
But he said if the Inuit had a choice, they would like to see the Great Whale project just go away. “I think that most, maybe 90 per cent of the people in the affected communities would rather see the hydro-project not get underway. But there are those who have an interest, maybe business-wise, to have this project.”
He said the Inuit feel they can’t stop the project. “Don’t forget back in 1975, Hydro went ahead without consulting us. This time, we don’t want to be caught off-guard so we started to negotiate.”
The agreement-in-principle, signed on Hydro-Quebec’s 50th birthday, opens the door to negotiations on a final agreement that must be signed within 18 months.
Tumic wants some changes before this deal is signed. “With this agreement-in-principle, I think we nailed down a bottom-line on what we want. 1 think we have a chance to get more out of the final agreement. If there isn’t [more], there’s no deal.”
Tumic said the Great Whale project will hit his community hard. “If they go ahead with it, it will have a tremendous impact on us socially and environmentally. Most of the people depend on animals to feed their people. When the mother river is diverted, the streams will start drying out. There will be no more fish. It will also affect other wildlife.”
Kuujjuarapik Mayor Anthony Ittoshat would not comment on the deal, beyond saying: “It’s not a perfect agreement but we can live with it. If this is going ahead, we want to get something out of it.” Asked whether Hydro-Quebec has the right to build Great Whale without Inuit consent, he said: “They didn’t have the right but they had the power to do it.”