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