A U.S.-based environmentalist group has walked into controversy after planning a demonstration against Hydro-Quebec without bothering to consult the Crees or major Quebec environmentalist organizations.
The Native Forest Network decided last November to hold rallies on April 14 in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Montreal and in other countries to protest the 50th anniversary of Hydro-Quebec. But Crees and others didn’t learn of the actions until January when the U.S. group put out a press release saying the utility plans to commit “eco-genocide.” The communique continued, “HQ plans further ecocide to the flora and fauna and genocide, this time to the Innu, with the SM-3 project.” Another communique prepared by the group said, “The multibillion dollar James Bay Project is, in essence, an ecological and genocidal holocaust.” The group goes on to claim that the Great Whale project will destroy “15 major rivers.”
The group’s communiques provoked the ire of Francois Tanguay, director of Greenpeace’s energy campaign in Quebec. “This type of language cannot work here,” he told The Nation, saying use of words like “eco-genocide” and “holocaust” is counter-productive.
“We re not saying Hydro-Quebec is nice. I don’t mind if they want to do something against Hydro-Quebec. But from a quick survey of groups in Quebec there’s hardly any support for this action. Nobody wants to be part of it.”
Tanguay said Quebec environmentalists haven’t planned any action of their own to counter the utility’s 50th anniversary. Instead, he said Greenpeace will announce a new study on energy efficiency in early April to coincide with the annual meeting of eastern Canadian premiers and New England governors.
The study shows Quebec could drastically cut energy demand by improving efficiency, Tanguay said. “We have hard numbers on how they could kill the dams if they really tried.”
Native Forest Network coordinator Orin Langelle said the term “genocide” was used because hydro projects are destroying Cree culture. But he promised not to use the term any more due to the objections.