According to one Waswanipi family, SNC Technologies has sunk to a new low in the company’s quest for an artillery firing range in Cree hunting and trapping territory.
Rose Dixon, daughter of Charlotte and Lawrence Dixon, says her father’s trap line will be partially affected by the 105 millimetre shells that SNC TEC is hoping to test in the area. And she’s furious over the company’s approach to her father, who has a poor command of English.
With little support for the proposed ballistics testing site in Waswanipi and an almost sure lack of approval from the joint Cree-Quebec examination committee (COMEX), Dixon says SNC consultant Bruce Smith, with the help of former CTA President Johnny Cooper, took matters into their own hands on January 21 and allegedly tricked the Elders like her father whose trap lines would be affected into signing over their support for the project.
The company, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, has asked for a 30-day extension on COMEX’s findings until February 15 to give them enough time to secure the support of the tallymen on paper.
“I asked my dad, ‘What did you sign?’ He said it’s to support Malcolm Dixon to protect the hunting in his territory and to protect the trapline,” said Dixon. “I told Bruce Smith to show me what he signed and it didn’t say that at all. It said that my dad didn’t have anything against the shooting range in the traplines, and that he basically supported the project. Smith didn’t say anything and he was red like a tomato.” Bruce Smith disagreed. “It’s strange she would say that because first of all Lawrence speaks English and I had a translator that went through the whole thing in great detail,” said Smith. “By saying that he signed something he didn’t understand I can’t believe that because we had a very nice discussion and I have a lot of respect for him.” Smith also thinks the project’s opponents are exaggerating the risks it poses to Cree culture.
“Some of the people who are speaking openly against the project said they are trying to retain the Native culture,” said Smith. “Well, Native culture, in my opinion, is not using these thousands of acres of land as a private campground twice a year. I’m not talking about the tallymen who use it for goose break. I’m sure some of these people would get lost as soon as they got off the highway.”
Lawrence Dixon, 72, says he was coerced by the two men. “What Johnny told me was that ‘everyone agreed to it,”’ Dixon said. “And the people who signed were helping Malcolm, my brother, so that they take care of his land and not to destroy it. They signed it, so will you sign?’ So I told him, ‘Yes I will sign because it’s also part of my land.’”
Dixon also feels that Bruce Smith doesn’t seem to listen to people. “A lot of people aren’t happy and now I don’t know what will happen. They say it will still go through no matter what. If it does, I don’t think the moose or bear will be around anymore.”
“They come and lie to us,” said Dixon’s wife Charlotte. “They say, This is what we will do… Whatever you need, we’ll give you. We’ll clean up the creeks. We’ll fix the roads if they flood with culverts.’ That’s what they said but I don’t believe it.”
Charlotte says her husband was told he would be standing with his brother so that his land wouldn’t be destroyed. “That’s why he signed,” she said.
Flora Blacksmith, Waswanipi’s Deputy Chief, said she’s disturbed by the revelations.
“I was surprised that Bruce Smith was around. I thought it was put on the shelf for awhile until all this was settled,” she said.
“Mr. Smith should have notified the council, he should have showed us whatever he wanted to present to these tallymen so we’d be aware. People that come around to do a survey or study always go by the band and ask permission. They let us know what they’re going to do. I think he should have done that.”
Blacksmith also had her doubts about a $400 cheque that was issued to Lawrence Dixon for his visit to Nicolet.
“I told Rose that I was surprised that he got a travel claim cheque,” said Blacksmith, who was also sent with a small Waswanipi group to a firing range site in Nicolet to see how it works. “I never received one and it was strange that he only got that cheque almost a year later,” she said.
She added that compensation for the visit was never discussed or proposed by SNC-Technologies.
Bruce Smith claimed that the check was for consultations by the tallymen and had nothing to do with travel expenses.
The whole ordeal led Rose Dixon to write to Chief Robert Kitchen and the band council asking them launch an investigation into the affair. According to a copy obtained by the Nation, the complaint states that her father wasn’t told the truth about what was on the document and it was only in English, which he does not read. They also did not leave him with a copy.
“My dad was manipulated to the maximum,” said Rose. “He always said no to this project and he always told me ‘if they give us a big amount of money this money will be spent, but the land can never be spent, so it’s better to keep the land.’ When I told him what it said he seemed embarrassed and just told me to be quiet, that there was nothing to do because everyone signed.”
Bruce Smith was not swayed. “After telling the tallymen all the details, they see absolutely no problem with our project because we’re not taking resources and we’re not destroying the land,” he said.
Smith figures that $250,000 annually will be paid out in security contracts to the Cree that will most likely result in 12 full- and part-time workers. The project will last for at least 30 years. He also said that a new cabin or road would be built for the tallymen affected.
“The point of the matter is it’s our land and we can do with it what we want,” said Rose.