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Change of Plans for Press Conference on Rupert River Diversion

by admin ~ January 16th, 2007

Quebec Premier Charest holds press conference at Hydro Quebec headquarters announcing the beginning of construction on the Rupert River diversion project. Originally scheduled for the Cree community of Waskaganish at the mouth of the Rupert River, the CBC and the Globe and Mail report a last minute change of venue to avoid likely protests of the project by local opponents. In his comments, Premier Charest defended the environmental and social assessment process, and the opportunity for public input on the development at various stages throughout the process:

“We continue to listen – We’re not insensitive to what is being expressed but it’s important to remember that every individual who wanted to speak to this project had the opportunity to speak up – We’ll continue to listen but we’ve now respected our word and we’ve done what we said we would do, and now we feel comfortable that this project can go forward.”

Grand Chief Matthew Mukash also spoke at the event, and reiterated concerns about a federal jobs and training program (one of the 83 Federal Review Panel recommendations that has not yet been implemented), and the effort to find effective mechanisms by which the voice of the Cree could be heard on the project. The original 2002 “Paix des Braves” agreement included provisions:

“whereby we would look at the possibility and impacts of diverting one of our, and Quebec’s, most historic and significant river systems – [Some] went beyond the hearings, and voiced their concerns through local democratic mechanisms, and others engaged in media campaigns.”

As the Grand Chief described, the main interest of the Cree in signing the 2002 agreement was a better relationship with Quebec and a recognition and implementation of their 1975 Treaty (the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement). He stated they will continue to put their trust and confidence in “the Quebec Nation and people, that they will honour the many outstanding provisions of the New Relationships Agreement with our people.” He also stated concerns over the many social, environmental, and health aspects of previous Hydro developments in their traditional territories. It is not power plants that give the Cree the ability to have a meaningful future in their lands, but their connection to a living tradition and the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the people. “Our mothers and fathers are buried throughout the land, and are a part of every living thing upon it. Their presence is felt and they are remembered in every part of our traditional territory.” Grand Chief Matthew Mukash’s comments can be found at the Cree Grand Council’s website, and the entire press conference can be heard at the following site. Cree opponents, Chiefs, and environmentalists also held their own press conference on the day of the event.


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