When we decided to ask Crees from different walks of life what they thought of the new HQ river diversion idea, we immediately thought of Margaret Cromarty.
As the Cree world has changed, she has remained a constant passionate voice reminding us about justice, equality and the other time-honoured principles that sustained the Crees, principles that are too easy to forget in this world.
Part of the trapline that sustained Margaret’s family over the many generations is now under water due to the James Bay I hydro project. This is what she said:
Margaret Cromarty: When they put the Great Whale project on ice, we were i n the States and they interviewed William, my husband. He was the one who said that famous quote: “Ice melts.” He said they would start that thing up again. Are they starting it again?
The Nation. We don’t really know. But it sounds like they are. What they’re saying now is they’re studying it They’re talking with the Cree leaders and they might propose some kind of compensation.
What compensation? We haven’t even reached that. It’s only the bigshots who got rich with James Bay Phase I. It will be the same with the second phase. We know it will create jobs, but we don’t know the impact on the land. It’s all about money.
Did you already hear about the new project?
Yeah, I did hear some people talking about it here and there.
What was your reaction?
Disappointed. We fought so hard for that. We were one of the grassroots here in Chisasibi. We were one of the people who fought along with the Great Whale people. We thought it was going to be on the shelf for 10 years. But the economy, it’s bad in Quebec. It’s probably the reason they’re starting it early…
I went to see the first rapids. There’s nothing there. There’s a large reservoir. They flooded a lot of land. They’re probably going to do the same thing (with the new project). The land is going to be gone. And as you know now, we can’t eat the fish. How much more wildlife we can’t eat? And the salt water is going far into the bay.
The environmental impact doesn’t look too good.
Where is your family’s trapline?
It goes along the river from LG-1 to LG-2. It’s no good any more. A lot of it has been wiped out. I didn’t get anything. Everybody got rich on account of Phase 1. I don’t mind the schools, the Cree Health Board. We benefit from that. But it hurt us. We’re still poor.