First Nation wants Inquiry into Racism, Assaults linked to Hydro development

York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant speaks to media in Winnipeg on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

A northern Manitoba First Nation is calling for a provincial inquiry into racism, discrimination and violence linked to hydroelectric development on its territory.

York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant said Premier Brian Pallister should order an inquiry into the Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro.

“They need to acknowledge the collective and individual trauma that has been occurring through northern hydroelectric development in the province,” he said at a Winnipeg news conference Friday.

A report released last month by the province’s Clean Environment Commission — an arm’s length review agency — outlined discrimination and sexual abuse at the Crown utility’s work sites in the 1960s and 1970s. The report said the arrival of a largely male construction workforce led to the sexual abuse of Indigenous women and some alleged their complaints to RCMP were ignored.

The report said there was also racial tension, environmental degradation and an end to the traditional way of life for some Indigenous people.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires has called the allegations in the commission’s report disturbing and said she is referring the issue to the RCMP.

Since the release of the report, Constant said traumatic memories have resurfaced in the Indigenous communities hurt by hydro development.

First Nations have tried to bring the issues up in the past, but Constant said it always fell on deaf ears. He said issues with hydro development, including harassment and racism, continue to this day.

“It’s impacted women for decades, since the ’50s and nothing has changed. Women are still treated the same as then,” said York Factory Coun. Evelyn Beardy.

“I want to see a day where, before the project is done, that my member doesn’t phone me and say she’s been called a savage or she’s walking down the hallway and has been groped. I’d like to see that stopped. It has to stop.”

No one from the Manitoba government or Manitoba Hydro was immediately available for comment.

Martina Saunders, an Indigenous woman who resigned from a board overseeing construction of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask generating station, recently filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging she and other Indigenous members were being ignored and bullied.

Without a full understanding of issues around racism and violence on hydro projects, Constant said Indigenous people will continue to be victimized.

He and other leaders want the inquiry to look at the prevalence of racism and harassment as well how the province, Manitoba Hydro, contractors and law enforcement responded to complaints over the decades. It should recommend culturally relevant victim support and ways to prevent racism and harassment in the future.

Constant said he will be sending a letter requesting a meeting with the premier and other officials to discuss the request.

“It comes down to reconciliation and hearing from our members that have experienced this. On Manitoba Hydro’s part I think it will reveal what truly happened over the past 60 years historically,” Constant said.

“There is a lot of hurt, there is a lot of anger.”

Source: Winnipegsun.com

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Cree, Métis Trappers And Fishermen Block Highway In Northern Manitoba

Cree trappers and fishermen from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas, Man., stop a truck on Highway 6 as part of a blockade that began Aug. 30. (Thomas Monias)

Cree trappers and fishermen from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas, Man., stop a truck on Highway 6 as part of a blockade that began Aug. 30. (Thomas Monias)

After negotiations over hydro development stall, groups block highway to protest

By Tim Fontaine, CBC News Posted: Sep 02, 2016

Around a dozen people from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and their supporters have erected a blockade on a major highway in northern Manitoba, stopping trucks and equipment bound for a massive hydroelectric development project.

The blockade, which began Tuesday, is at the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 39 just south of Wabowden, Man. approximately 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The protesters are allowing cars, trucks and bus traffic through, but they claim to have turned back semi-trailers and equipment that were en route to the construction site of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask Generating Station near Gillam, Man., a further 500 kilometres north.

The protesters are mainly members of the Opaskawayak Cree Nation Local Fur Council and the Opaskawayak Commercial Fishery Co-op, two groups that have been attempting to negotiate a settlement related to the construction of the Grand Rapids Generating Station over five decades ago.

They’ve also been joined by people from the Misipawistik Cree Nation and Métis from Grand Rapids, Man.

“This is for land that was damaged in 1960 — 1.5 million acres of prime trapping and fishing area, when Hydro built the Grand Rapids hydro generating station,” said John Morrisseau, who is from Grand Rapids.

The fight for compensation

HYDRO-NATIVE-DEAL

Construction of the Grand Rapids Generating Station began in 1960 and lasted five years, but destroyed thousands of kilometres of Cree territory, protesters say. (Winnipeg Free Press/CP)

Construction of the Grand Rapids generating station began in 1960 and lasted five years until it was operational.

The dam, which was built on the Saskatchewan River, required thousands of kilometres of land to be flooded — much of it trapping and fishing grounds used by First Nations, including people from Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

The trappers and fishermen from that community say that because of the changed landscape they now have to travel up to 150 kilometres just to fish or reach their traplines. Because of that, some people lost their livelihoods altogether, they say.

Several of the First Nations and Métis people affected by the dam have already negotiated settlements with the province and Manitoba Hydro. But for the past nine years, trapping and fishing groups from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation have been trying negotiate their own compensation.

Those talks broke down around two weeks ago.

“We’ll stay here as long as it takes to get Hydro at the negotiating table,” Morrisseau said.

Hydro responds

But a spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said it was the trappers and fishermen who walked away from the negotiating table in the first place.

“[Manitoba Hydro] is more than happy to talk to them but I want to be very, very clear that they were the ones who walked away from the negotiating table, not us,” said Scott Powell.

“We’ve even offered to bring in a mediator at our expense to help with the discussions.”

According to Powell, there’s a dispute over how many fishers and trappers are eligible for compensation. Hydro is willing to compensate 59 fishers and more than 150 trappers, based on how many were harvesting in the area at the time the dam was built, but the First Nations say hundreds more should be eligible.

CBC News has been trying to reach the heads of both the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Local Fur Council and the Opaskwayak Commercial Fishery Co-op for further comment, but cellphone coverage is poor in the area where the blockade is set up.

Powell confirmed that several trucks on contract with Manitoba Hydro that were headed to “points north” had been stopped and turned back by the blockade.

RCMP didn’t respond to requests from CBC News for information about the situation but Canada Carthage, a major trucking company, has been warning drivers and operators about the blockade on social media.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/cree-trappers-blockade-manitoba-hydro-1.3746010?cmp=abfb

Fox Lake Cree Nation Blockade Ends

A group of protestors had been blocking three Manitoba Hydro sites, claiming that hydro workers destroyed a sacred ceremonial site. (Source: Sheila North Wilson)

A group of protestors had been blocking three Manitoba Hydro sites, claiming that hydro workers destroyed a sacred ceremonial site. (Source: Sheila North Wilson)

Highway 290 blockade ends

CTV Winnipeg, May 14, 2016

Officials from the Fox Lake Cree Nation have confirmed that a blockade on Highway 290 has ended.

A group of protestors had been blocking three Manitoba Hydro sites, claiming that hydro workers destroyed a sacred ceremonial site.

Chief Walter Spence said Manitoba Hydro has committed to work together with the Fox Lake Cree Nation, and rebuild the site.

The protest ended around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. A Manitoba Hydro spokesperson said the company is disheartened the sacred site was damaged.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson confirmed the end of the blockade on twitter Saturday.

http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/highway-290-blockade-ends-1.2902734

First Nation Blockade Halts Access To 3 Manitoba Hydro Sites After Ceremonial Land Desecrated

Fox Lake Cree Nation has blocked Highway 280, preventing workers from accessing three Manitoba Hydro sites. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)

Fox Lake Cree Nation has blocked Highway 290, preventing workers from accessing three Manitoba Hydro sites. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)

By Red Power Media, Staff / May 12, 2016

Fox Lake Cree Nation suspects Manitoba Hydro involved after sacred site destroyed

A remote Cree Nation about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, has put up a blockade to keep workers from three Manitoba Hydro sites, after band members discovered ceremonial land desecrated.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Fox Lake Cree Nation members began a blockade Thursday morning at the junction of the reserve and Highway 290, blocking access to Hydro’s Limestone Generation station, Keewatinohk Access Gate and Henday Converter Station.

Occupation of Manitoba Hydro dam ends after deal reached

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger allegedly agrees to come to the community to deliver an apology for harm done by the dam.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger allegedly agrees to come to the community to deliver an apology for harm done by the dam.

CROSS LAKE, Man. – A six-week occupation of a northern Manitoba hydro dam is over.

Protesters from Cross Lake First Nation have agreed to leave the site of the Jenpeg generating station after reaching a deal for negotiations.

The talks are to address some key concerns including revenue-sharing, a shoreline cleanup and help with residential hydro bills that hover around $600 a month in the winter.

Cross Lake Chief Catherine Merrick says they also have a signed letter from Premier Greg Selinger agreeing to come to the community to deliver an apology for harm done by the dam.

Hundreds of protesters from the First Nation north of Lake Winnipeg marched to the hydro dam on Oct. 16.

The generating station continued to operate during the occupation, but protesters wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

http://globalnews.ca/news/1698236/occupation-of-manitoba-hydro-dam-ends-after-deal-reached/

Hydro ‘cautiously optimistic’ about steps to end Jenpeg occupation

Protesters set up around a campfire near the Jenpeg generating station in October as part of their occupation at the site. (Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg/Facebook)

Protesters set up around a campfire near the Jenpeg generating station in October as part of their occupation at the site. (Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg/Facebook)

Nov 06, 2014. CBC

The first steps have been taken to end the occupation of the Jenpeg generating station in northern Manitoba.

A memorandum of agreement has been signed by Manitoba Hydro, the province and  Pimicikamak Cree Nation (also known as Cross Lake First Nation) to negotiate a settlement to the three-week occupation of the dam.

Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said officials at the utility are cautiously optimistic “we’re on a path forward.”

“It’s really only the first step in our continuing discussions with Cross Lake towards getting that process agreement,” he said. “There’s [now] a framework to address their issues. But there’s lots of discussions yet to occur.”

Protesters from Pimicikamak have been occupying the grounds at Jenpeg since mid-October, forcing a number of Manitoba Hydro employees off the property.

The protesters want a revenue-sharing agreement with Hydro as well as compensation for damages caused by flooding from the dam, which opened in 1979.

They also want Premier Greg Selinger to visit and make a public apology.

Manitoba Hydro uses Jenpeg — located about 20 kilometres from Pimicikamak — to control outflows from Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River.

The hydro system floods 65 square kilometres of Pimicikamak land and causes severe damage to thousands of kilometres of shoreline, Chief Cathy Merrick stated in a press release released when the protest began.

Pimicikamak signed an agreement with the province in 1977, before the dam opened, but Merrick has said the Crown corporation and the provincial government haven’t fulfilled their promise to eradicate the mass poverty and mass unemployment on the First Nation.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/hydro-cautiously-optimistic-about-steps-to-end-jenpeg-occupation-1.2825757?cmp=abfb

 

Retired judge called in to help in Jenpeg dam dispute talks

Protesters with the Pimicikamak Cree Nation rally outside Manitoba Hydro's headquarters in downtown Winnipeg on Oct. 23. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)

Protesters with the Pimicikamak Cree Nation rally outside Manitoba Hydro’s headquarters in downtown Winnipeg on Oct. 23. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)

Oct 31, 2014

A retired Supreme Court judge has been called in to facilitate talks between Manitoba Hydro, the provincial government and the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, which is occupying the Jenpeg generating station in northern Manitoba.

Protesters from the First Nation, located in Cross Lake, Man., have been occupying the grounds at Jenpeg since mid-October, forcing a number of Manitoba Hydro employees off the property.

Pimicikamak Chief Catherine Merrick has said Manitoba Hydro has violated her people’s treaty rights and must make amends.

Hydro spokesperson Scott Powell said representatives from all three parties started meeting on Thursday with Frank Iacobucci, a facilitator and retired Supreme Court of Canada justice, to figure out a way to move forward.

“The parties thought that it would be best that in order to move that process forward to have an independent facilitator come in to help with those discussions,” Powell told CBC News on Friday.

“Next step right now is to get a process agreement finalized and then from there normalize our operations at Jenpeg. Once we get those two issues sorted, we can then begin discussions on a lot of the issues that have been raised by Pimicikamak.”

Powell said the public power utility is cautiously optimistic that a resolution will be made.

The Pimicikamak Cree Nation signed an agreement in 1977 after the Jenpeg dam was built, but Merrick has said the Crown corporation and the provincial government haven’t fulfilled their obligations.

Traditional lands are regularly flooded and the fragile shoreline is eroding, Merrick told The Canadian Press last week.

A handful of Cross Lake residents are employed by the dam, but there are none of the promised programs to “eradicate mass poverty and mass employment,” she said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/retired-judge-called-in-to-help-in-jenpeg-dam-dispute-talks-1.2820278

Protesters demand apology, environmental cleanup as Hydro standoff continues

Generation for the Nation Rally in Winnipeg. Photo: Red Power Media

Pimicikamak – Generation for the Nation Rally in Winnipeg. Photo: Red Power Media

Oct 23, 2014

Protesters are calling on the provincial government to help repair its broken relationship with the First Nations community.

A peaceful rally at the downtown Manitoba Hydro building Thursday afternoon saw about 30 members of the Pimicikamak First Nation protest the damage to their land by the Jenpeg Generating Station.

About 600 Pimicikamak residents last week evicted Manitoba Hydro employees from the Jenpeg station grounds in protest of what they said is the the Manitoba government’s failure to honour the Northern Flood Agreement, signed in the 1970s after the Jenpeg station was built about 20 kilometres from Cross Lake (525 kms north of Winnipeg by air).

Pimicikamak council member Mervin Garrick spoke to assembled crowd, representing Chief Cathy Merrick who couldn’t attend because her flight was cancelled. Garrick said the action is being taken to force the government to restore a fair relationship with Pimicikamak.

“They have not fulfilled their promise to do environmental cleanup… to maximize employment for our people… to eradicate mass poverty and mass unemployment,” Garrick said, noting there are 287 residents right now without power because Manitoba Hydro cut them off when they could not afford to pay bills that, at about $600 per month, are among the highest in the province.

3

Pimicikamak – Generation for the Nation Rally in Winnipeg. Photo: Red Power Media

“We feel frustrated. We feel cheated. But we also feel determined,” he said. “That is why we will stay at Jenpeg until the government and Hydro demonstrate that they are committed to restoring a fair relationship with Pimicikamak.”

Garrick said the community gave the government a list of five solutions and members are waiting on a meeting between Chief Merrick and Premier Greg Selinger that will, they hope, propel the government into action.

The Pimicikamak proposal asks for a revenue-sharing agreement with the province, a public apology, environmental cleanup of the shorelines, a say in how water levels are managed and an aggressive Power Smart program to lower the community’s hydro bills.

2

Pimicikamak – Generation for the Nation Rally in Winnipeg. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. Photo: Red Power Media

Among several speakers were Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and Dalton McKay, the Pimicikamak youth council representative.

Meanwhile, at the Jenpeg facility in the Pimicikamak territory, around five to seven Manitoba Hydro  chose to remain inside to safely run the station.

These people have now surpassed their normal shift change. Both hydro and the protesters have told the employees they may leave at any time but the protestors also said any workers who leave will not be allowed back in.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said Hydro cannot disclose how many employees remain inside for security reasons.

“Given the public risks associated with abandoning the station and the potential challenges of an evacuation we are maintaining the status quo at present and this is being monitored around the clock. Perimeter security measures have been strengthened,” Powell told the Free Press on Thursday afternoon.

“Our employees’ decision to stay reflects an extraordinary commitment to Manitoba Hydro and to the customers we serve.”

Winnipeg Police Manitoba Hydro Building. Photo: Red Power Media

While the Thursday afternoon protest was peaceful, Hydro locked down its building at 4 p.m. and a Winnipeg police presence of at least five marked police cars were seen parked a short distance away and around the block.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/Protesters-demand-apology-environmental-cleanup-as-Hydro-barricade-280255182.html

First Nations protesters occupy grounds of Manitoba Hydro dam, refuse to leave

 

Women watch and support their warriors as they confront dam and rcmp. Tyler Adam Turcotte\Twitter

Women watch and support their warriors as they confront dam and rcmp. Photo: Tyler Adam Turcotte. Twitter

October 19, 2014

Protesters from a northern Manitoba First Nation are occupying the grounds around a generating station and have issued an eviction notice to Manitoba Hydro for what they say is a violation of their treaty rights.

More than 100 protesters from the Cross Lake First Nation north of Lake Winnipeg marched to the hydro dam Wednesday and some have refused to leave the grounds. In a letter to Hydro president Scott Thomson, Chief Catherine Merrick said the First Nation is taking control of its traditional territory and evicting the Crown corporation.

“You do not respect our rights,” she wrote in the letter dated Oct. 6. “You do not even respect or acknowledge who we are as people. Money and profit — that which you make off our traditional territory and people — is apparently all you care about.”

Treaties signed by the First Nation agreed to share the land with the Crown, as long as “you act honourably,” the letter states. Manitoba Hydro is guilty of fraud for using “these treaty lands for your own purposes regardless of what we, as the original title-holders, would have to say about it,” Merrick wrote.

IdleNoMore4 Power to Pimicikamak. Photo: Tyler Adam Turcotte\Twitter

IdleNoMore4 Power to Pimicikamak. Photo: Tyler Adam Turcotte. Twitter

A Facebook page dedicated to the occupation showed video of dozens of protesters occupying the site Wednesday and featured a deafening alarm wailing from the station.

“I think they figured they would scare us off,” posted Darwin Paupanakis. “Anyways eviction has occurred. Now next thing if they want back in … we talk rent.”

The Jenpeg generating station, which cost $310 million to build in the 1970s, is about 525 kilometres north of Winnipeg and is a key element in Manitoba Hydro’s northern electricity generation. The dam is used to help regulate the level of Lake Winnipeg, which has become swollen in recent years due to flooding, and the site also acts as a reservoir for other northern generating stations.

Stan Struthers, cabinet minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, was not immediately available to comment. Cabinet spokesman Matthew Williamson said Struthers has also offered protesters a meeting to discuss their concerns.

Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said he doesn’t know how many protesters were at the dam site Thursday. Some employees were allowed to leave under police escort, but Manitoba Hydro personnel were not being allowed to enter, he said.

Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg. Photo: Facebook

Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg. Photo: Facebook

“Our immediate concern is for the safety of our employees who are on site, members of the public and the protesters themselves, obviously because it’s an operating electrical facility,” Powell said. “Our staff are continuing to man both the generating station and staff house using supervisory and security staff.

“We’ve taken measures to secure the physical plant and to maintain operations, not only of the generating plant itself, but also the Lake Winnipeg regulation control works.”

The corporation has been reaching out to the band’s leadership since May for a meeting but to no avail, Powell said.

“The factors underlying the protest are pretty complex and they’ve got a long history. In some cases they involve parties other than Manitoba Hydro and Cross Lake,” Powell said.

“We continue to hope we can resolve the situation as soon as possible to protect the safety of all concerned and the ongoing reliability of Manitoba’s electrical supply.”

http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/first-nations-protesters-occupy-grounds-of-manitoba-hydro-dam-refuse-to-leave-1.2058002

Northern Cree occupy Manitoba Hydro dam over longstanding grievances

(A Cross Lake demonstrator at the occupation of a Manitoba Hydro dam. Facebook photo)

(A Cross Lake demonstrator at the occupation of a Manitoba Hydro dam. Facebook photo)

BY

Members of a northern First Nation have begun occupying a hydroelectric dam over longstanding grievances with Manitoba Hydro.

The Jenpeg Generating Station is located 19 kilometres from the Cree community of Cross Lake.

Tommy Monias lives in Cross Lake and is taking part in the occupation. Monias told APTN National News late Sunday that the occupation started Friday and people have been maintaining the camp in shifts, with around 10 people at the site at any given time.

Monias says RCMP are monitoring the situation but the occupiers told them it’s going to be a peaceful protest.

He also says “a middle manager” from Manitoba Hydro contacted the group hoping to sit down and talk. But Monias says they’re digging-in for a long occupation because he says previous discussions with Manitoba Hydro over grievances have gone nowhere.

“They always want to sit and talk but nothing ever happens,” Monias said. “We’ve never reached any solutions that aren’t in the best interests of Manitoba Hydro.”

Monias says the issue is larger than utility bills. There are issues of treaty rights to land and a “Northern Flood Agreement” which he says isn’t being implemented. The NFA is supposed to compensate northern Manitoba First Nations affected by hydro development.

No one from Manitoba Hydro was immediately available for comment.

A Facebook group called “Pimicikamak Occupation of JenPeg” has been created that shows photos of several people camped alongside the road that crosses the dam.

Pimicikamak is a Cree word describing the land and people of the area.

Nearly 5,000 people live in the Cross Lake area, which is located over 700 kilometers north of Winnipeg.

Local residents there say they have some of the highest electricity and heating bills in the province, despite the electricity generated from a dam in their own territory.

Calls to the nearby RCMP detachment in Cross Lake went to a voice message.

http://aptn.ca/news/2014/09/29/protest-manitoba-hydro/