The Chiefs of Nemaska, Chisasibi and Waskaganish – the communities who will be most affected by the damming of the Rupert River – have released a document that questions the validity of the EM-1A project.
Chisasibi Chief Abraham Rupert, Waskaganish Chief Robert Weistche and Nemaska Chief Josie Jimiken presented their report in late July to the Federal Review Panel and the Comité d’Examen (COMEX), the two boards that are looking into the impacts that the EM-1A project will have on the land, the people and the animals.
In it, they cited the “longstanding policy of the Grand Council of the Crees to follow the lead of the affected communities in forming its national decision.”
The report stated: “We, as Nations, submit to the review bodies that they must examine not only the mitigating measures that might limit the impact of the project on our communities, but must also consider and decide the more basic questions of whether the project should go ahead, taking into account the great damage our communities will suffer as a result of various losses and fundamental changes both to our land and way of life.
Finally, we urge that the forthcoming decision be made on the basis of the precautionary principle. The project cannot be approved if there exists widespread apprehension of unacceptable environmental and social impacts.
Rupert and Weistche opposed the inclusion of the Rupert River in the 2002 Paix des Braves Agreement. Chisasibi voted against the Agreement, but majorities in the remaining eight communities pushed it through despite a low turnout.
The report went on to call to task the referenda during that time and how little information was available to the people. It also brought to light the fact that each community’s referendum was held a full three years before the tabling of the impact study. Without all the pertinent information, it asked, how could Cree voters make a sound decision?
The report claims that the question asked was not whether to approve the project, but whether an in-depth study should be undertaken, as per section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
The report also said: “Since each of the agreements makes the project subject to the environmental and social review process of section 22 of the JBNQA, there is no question that ALL aspects of section 22 must be respected. Thus, the decision whether or not to proceed with the project must be made based upon and subsequent to a full examination of impacts. The Cree communities did not and would not have approved a project regardless of its impact.”
Hydro was unavailable for comment by press time.
The report also talked about the importance of the Rupert River to Cree people and suggested wind power as an alternative to hydropower. It accused Hydro Québec of being a follower when it comes to wind power, and said that Hydro has been busy making excuses as to why wind power won’t work while others have been using the same power extensively.
The Chiefs say that Hydro did not even consult Cree Elders for their traditional knowledge of water flow and impact on local flora and fauna.
The report’s impact, if any, will not be known until COMEX and the FRP release their final report on November 1 of this year.