The Inuit are getting a lot less compensation for the Great Whale River project than first expected, according to an analysis by The Nation.
In media reports, the compensation figure has been put at anywhere from $555 million to $1 billion. But the actual figure in today’s dollars is about $100 million, and could be much lower.
Makivik Corp., the Inuit administrative body, is poised to sign the deal with Hydro-Quebec in the next few weeks. In the deal, the Inuit also sign away their right to delay the project.
The proposed deal made headlines when it was leaked to the media just days before Makivik president Charlie Watt faced an election challenge from his own brother-in-law. He lost [see sidebar, this page],
Under the proposed deal, the Inuit appear to get $555 million over 49 years. They’ll get $30 million as soon as Hydro-Quebec proceeds with the Great Whale project. During the seven years of construction, the Inuit will get another $3 million per year. After that, Hydro-Quebec agrees to give $12 million each year for 42 years.
But those figures are misleading, according to The Nation’s analysis. The deal actually gives the Inuit a lot less money because it will be handed out over 49 years instead of in one lump sum. If the money was given up-front, it could be invested, which would yield a return. Inflation will also significantly reduce the value of the money.
If these factors are taken into account, the deal is actually worth only $102 million in 1993 dollars. And that’s only it Hydro-Quebec gets its construction permit in 1997.
The longer the project is delayed, the less the money is worth. That gives Makivik an incentive to see Great Whale built as soon as possible.
What’s more, Kuujjuarapik, the Inuit community most affected by the project, seems to be getting the raw end of the deal. Kuujjuarapik mayor Anthony Ittoshat has expressed concern that his community is getting only 13.5 percent of the compensation money. Most of the rest goes to Makivik.
Makivik and Hydro-Quebec wouldn’t comment until the deal is officially signed.
Matthew Mukash, chief of Whapmagoostui, said the deal undermines Inuit rights.
He pointed to one clause that says the Inuit can’t try to delay the project in any way. Even if Great Whale never gets off the ground, the Inuit will always be on record as having signed away this right, he said. “My problem is, why should a nation enter an agreement with a Crown corporation? If there is to be an agreement, it should be with the government of Quebec. Then it would be on a nation-to-nation basis.”
Mukash said Hydro-Quebec is trying to undermine the ongoing impact review of Great Whale.
“If you sign an agreement like that, how can you participate in the impact process? That’s where you’re supposed to voice opposition to a project.”