In a stunning disregard for the Paix des Braves Agreement and the Cree Nation, Action Démocratique du Québec leader Mario Dumont has vowed that he would bring the multi-billion-dollar Great Whale hydroelectric project back to the forefront if his party came to power.
“I still think that export, for Quebecers, is a way to the future, and that Quebecers need more money and more financial resources to face the aging population,” he added. “We should not leave the Great Whale Project on the shelf.”
His comments on March 15 harkened back to the old days when a concerted effort by the Cree Nation allowed them to present a united front against the project. In the early 1990s leaders like Matthew Coon Come and current grand Chief Matthew Mukash fought the project by, among many other efforts, paddling their canoes down to New York City to garner support from American ecologists – and they won.
His words elicited a strong response from the Grand Council of the Crees, which issued the following statement:“Mario Dumont’s announcement of his intention to go ahead with the Great Whale Project is against the spirit of the Paix des Braves Agreement. We consented to the Eastmain Project and only that project.
“The Agreement is intended to strengthen the political, economic and social relations between Quebec and the Crees and establishes relations based on cooperation, partnership and mutual respect, but we find that the unilateralism reflected in Dumont’s statement undermines those written commitments of Quebec to the Cree Nation.”
Liberal Leader Jean Charest promised Grand Chief Mathew Mukash in a face-to-face meeting last year that the issue of damming the Great Whale River was off the table for good. He also announced that his party’s energy strategy policy from 2006 – 2015 did not include the Great Whale Project.
Chisasibi Chief Abraham Rupert, who knows all to well the effects of hydroelectric development thanks to the damming of La Grande River, was appalled.
“An announcement has been made where we have no say,” he said. “I’m against it because of what I see has happened in Chisasibi territory.”
The La Grande project flooded thousands of square kilometres of Cree land when eight hydroelectric installations were built near Rupert’s community. The community also had to relocate from Fort George Island to its current location of Chisasibi because of fear that they would be flooded. As it is, Chisasibi’s 4,000 residents would have just over two hours to evacuate if the dam fails, Rupert noted.
The Great Whale Project would flood over 3,000 sq km of wildlife habitat and divert four major rivers.
“With the big concern for the environment today across this country, it’s now known that hydro projects and big reservoirs, contribute to global warming,” he said. “It’s now time to take a look at an alternative source of energy.”
Rupert and his councillors have been in discussions with Ventus, a wind energy company, in hopes of providing the area with other alternatives to the Eastmain I -A project, which has already started construction and is to be completed in a few years.
Rupert fears that the Paix des Braves Agreement signed in 2002 that gave Cree consent to the massive project created a political opening for Hydro Quebec and forestry and mining companies to come into Eeyou Istchee.
“The other thing we need to understand is when we signed the Paix des Braves, did we open up our territory where the Cree Nation doesn’t really have a say? How is the government interpreting that? Are they interpreting it as the Cree Nation is opening up so any major entity can come and develop? Have we consented to that? There needs to be a clearer understanding.”
When asked, in the event Mario Dumont became premier, if Crees would fight the project as a unified nation, Rupert quickly replied, “I certainly hope so. The impacts are going to be catastrophic for the Cree Nation on the traditional way of life.”