(Montreal) A coalition of Indigenous communities from Abitepe, Haute-Mauritse and Cote Nord has called on Hydro-Québec to suspend a project to build a line link with the Maine grid.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Anishnabe communities of Lac Simon, Atikamekw of Wemotaci and the Innu of Pessamit accused the state corporation of “ignoring the constitutional and ancestral rights of First Nations, from which more than 36% of the population comes… electricity to be exported to the United States, without consulting, compensating or absorbing them.”
Joined by The Canadian Press, Gerald Herveo, vice president of the Inoue Community Band Board in Bissamet, noted that it’s not the line itself – which does not run through the communities’ lands – that poses a problem, but the increased demand for electricity threatening hunting and fishing grounds. The fact that more electricity is produced actually means more water, which lowers reservoir levels and increases river flow.
Abnormally low levels
“It’s a hazard to plants, the environment, and aquatic and terrestrial animals,” explained Deputy Chef Herveaux. Beavers are affected and moose descend to a lesser extent. There are many elements that will have an impact on our lifestyle. We noticed that Lake Pipmuacan is deteriorating and often declining. ”
In turn, the spokesman for the band’s board of the Atikamiko community in Wimotashi, Guy Lallucci, joined in his approval. “With climate change, the water levels in reservoirs almost everywhere in Quebec are very low and dangerous,” he emphasized, noting that he noticed this no later than last week while going to the Gwen Reservoir.
Indigenous communities demand discussions and negotiations with Hydro-Quebec, or else they threaten to go to court, warns Gerald Hervio. “If we are forced to do this, we will have no choice because it still matters. It is not a question of money, it is a matter of respect and recognition of our common lands in relation to all the communities in the alliance.”
Sharing the wealth of resources
But there are also questions about the sharing of the wealth generated by hydroelectric exploitation, Jay Lallouche identifies.
“We need jobs because we have a number of young people,” he explains, adding that many development projects are underway in the community. “If we do not have access to natural resources, we will not be able to maintain this pace.”
Mr. Lallouche points out that there are about a dozen dams on the St. Maurice River, at the edge of which lies his community of Haute Maurice, but only two of them have been the subject of agreements.
“We would like Hydro-Quebec and, by default also the Quebec government, to be able to take the time to meet us in relation to these projects, in terms of what they want to do in the territory. At the moment, there has been no official opening,” confirms Vice Chef Herveaux. .
However, neither he nor Guy Lallouche accused Hydro-Quebec of ignoring them or refusing to speak to them. “They have shown great initiatives at Hydro-Quebec, but sometimes the speeches and what gets wrapped up on paper, it’s not always the same,” confirms Jay Lallouche who adds: “Hydro, you changed a little bit when the ladies arrived, MI brochu [Sophie Brochu, présidente-directrice générale] andI Boucher [Julie Boucher, vice-présidente et responsable des affaires autochtones]. We will wait for the rest. We would like our discussions with them to be reflected on paper. ”
Hydropower: levels will not be affected by demand
In Hydro-Quebec, a spokeswoman for Lynn St-Laurent argued in an interview with La Presse Canadienne that “Régie l’énergie du Canada, which has evaluated the project for 20 months, has considered opposition to the coalition – because the coalition has also brought its complaints to it – and indicated that it has not There were clearly defined issues regarding the project.”
As for water level control, she says all utilities have standards that set predetermined limits. Our electricity exports will not change these operational limits in any way. Export will be as permitted for each of our facilities. This means that the minimum and maximum levels of the tanks will not be changed by the construction and operation of an additional transmission line. ”
Additionally, she adds, “Energy Regulatory Canada has clearly concluded that the project will not lead to new impacts on production facilities.”
It also invites concerned communities to dialogue: “We are open to discussion and action in cooperation with local communities.”