Waswanipi residents can breathe easier after a July 27 announcement by the provincial administrator that the proposed SNC Technologies firing range has been shot down.
“The provincial administrator has refused the project,” said Brian Craik, who along with Philip Awashish, sits on le comité d’examen or COMEX, which is made up of three representatives appointed by Quebec and two appointed by the Cree Nation.
COMEX analyzes various proposals that will affect the Cree territory on their economic merit, the impact they will have on the land and the overall logistics of their development.
“I think this decision is right for that area,” said Craik. “The project didn’t create employment and the people didn’t want it, so it made sense to reject it. We looked over things like does it fit with the region? Does it create employment for the region? Does it do much in terms of environmental damage? You could look over all those things and say that the project wasn’t a big winner for anyone in the region.”
The President of COMEX, Clement Tremblay, agreed with Craik.
“We made a recommendation to the administrator last March against the project and two days ago they informed SNC Tech that the project would not go through,” he said.
“The main reason was the contamination of the water and soil. We also thought they were asking for too large a piece of land. They were asking for 400 square kilometres. Even though they said they wouldn’t use it all, there was a fear that they would use more in the future,” he said.
“We never received the approval of the band council either,” he said. “There were also very few jobs for the region that came with it.”
SNC Technologies could not be reached for comment.
In a last ditch effort to save the project, the Nation has learned that Chapais Mayor Jacques Berubé, a leading proponent of the project, has sent new documents to the provincial administrator to try to get them to scrutinize the new evidence and reverse their decision.
Daniel Berrouard, who also sits on COMEX and is the coordinator for native affairs at the provincial administrator’s department, said that the decision is final and can only be appealed in a court of law. “The recommendation from the review committee was not to accept the project. The provincial administrator has agreed and has refused the project, and they don’t have a right to appeal,” Berrouard said.
The range would have had an impact on the Cree tallymen and their traplines. Waswanipi residents had feared that because of the potential noise, some of the animals would have disappeared over the life of the 30-year project.
Rose Dixon was one of the locals that opposed the range. Her father, she says, was coerced into signing over his support for the ballistics range. But in a strange twist to the story, she found a diary written by her father after he passed away on July 30 talking about his opposition to the range.
“I feel great,” said Dixon. “I’m so happy that the project has been stopped. My father was a quiet man and when we put his things away a few days ago we found a journal talking about the fact that he didn’t want it. He didn’t like arguments so he wrote his thoughts in there.
“It would have destroyed a lot of rivers, lakes and land, not to mention the fish and wild animals we would have lost,” added Dixon. “Those things are very precious to our family and we’re very happy.”
The band council concurred. “I think it’s certainly a battle that’s been won,” said Waswanipi Band Council Director General Sam Gull. “We were always hopeful that the decision would be in the favour of the tallymen. We’re going to have quite a few happy people in Waswanipi.”