Cree Opposition to Rupert River Diversion Project in Northern Quebec
by admin ~ December 17th, 2006
Three James Bay Cree communities most affected by the Eastmain 1A-Rupert Diversion have voted to oppose the project. The diversion of the historic and free-flowing Rupert River, one of the largest rivers in Quebec, will impact 165 lakes, five rivers, and flood over 1,000 square kilometers of old growth boreal forest in the James Bay region of northern Quebec. A 2002 agreement (called “Paix des Braves”) between the Government of Quebec and the Grand Council of the Cree (Eeyou Istchee) set the conditions for approval of the project: including a public review process, environmental assessment, and approval by local Cree communities. Since that time, a new Grand Chief has been elected to the Grand Council, Matthew Mukash, who opposes the project, and three referenda in Waskaganish, Chisasibi and Nemaska have voted down the proposal by an overwhelming majority. The project seems embroiled in controversy as the Government of Quebec recently issued its certificate of authorization for construction of the Diversion on November 29, despite Cree opposition to the project and delayed completion of the environmental assessment study (the COMEX report). Several groups are planning protests in solidarity with the Cree and in defense of the river, including a canoe trip by two members of Rupert Reverence on Dec 07, who will deliver a petition signed by 6,000 people to the National Assembly of the Parliament of Quebec. Further information can be obtained on this issue below, including a book chapter by Harvey Feit on the enduring relationships of the Cree with the land, cultural identity, state institutions, and negotiation of Hydro-electric projects on northern James Bay rivers.