Battle for the Rupert
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January 30, 2004
Prominent Quebecers oppose dams
Until now, prominent members of Quebec's francophone community have not taken a public stand on the latest round of James Bay dams. In the fall, a coalition of artists, musicians, singers and actors came out in opposition to the damming of Quebec's rivers, including the Rupert River. They included academy-award-winning filmmaker Frederic Back (no relation to this story's author) and documentary director Michel Gauthier.
The group formed Rivers Foundation and hopes to raise $2 million, according to La Presse. During the earlier phases of the James Bay Project prominent francophone Quebecers supported the project. Anyone who did not was considered anti-Quebec.
August 21, 2003
Guidelines for environmental assessment approved
The federal Minister of Environment approved the plan that sets the structure and guidelines for the environmental assessment of the Rupert River diversion and the additional damming of the Eastmain River.
The directives were established jointly between Quebec, Canada and the Crees with public consultation in May and June. The proponents of the project, who must prepare the assessment, are Hydro-Quebec and its subsidiary, Société d'énergie de la Baie-James (SEBJ), which constructs and operates the James Bay power facilities.
Hydro-Quebec and SEBJ will begin preparing the assessment. The final document will be reviewed by a federal panel for conformity to a loose set of federal environmental-assessment regulations.
July 8, 2003
Eastmain listed as one of Canada's most endangered rivers
The 2003 list of the most endangered rivers in Canada is out and the Eastmain is second.
July 6, 2003
Open invitation to join canoe expedition down the Rupert
Rupert Reverence has issued an open invitation to join Crees and Québécois as they descend the Rupert River from July 26 to August 18. The "pilgrimage" is a show of support for keeping the river dam-free.
Participants must be self-sufficient and may paddle any section of the route, which starts at the Route du Nord highway and descends to the Cree village of Waskaganish on James Bay.
FOR INFORMATION: Eric Gagnon 450-772-5899
WEBSITE: Rupert Reverence
July 3, 2003 Updated: February 24, 2005
New premier commits to resolving Cree issues
Quebec's new premier, Jean Charest, met with Cree chief Ted Moses and committed to resolving disputes between the Crees and Quebec, according to a story in today's Montreal Gazette.
Charest also committed his government to support of the Peace of the Brave deal, which covers new hydro-electric development, and was signed by Charest's predecessor, Premier Bernard Landry.
The premier's commitment is symbolically important. Liberal candidate Charest defeated Péquiste Landry in the April 14 provincial election. Moses had publicly committed support for Landry during the election campaign. Charest had supported the Great Whale River hydro-electric project that is specifically excluded in the Peace of the Brave. While there is no agreement for its development, neither is there one to prohibit it.
June 19, 2003
Quebecois support grows to save Rupert
A second northern Quebec environment group has stepped up to oppose the Rupert diversion.
Boreal Action Abitibi-Témiscamingue, based in northeastern Quebec, is headed by singer-poet and filmmaker Richard Desjardins. The French acronym for the group is ABBAT, which means slaughtering in English.
April 13, 2003
Retracing the routes of mapmaker-explorer A. P. Low
Two Ottawa outdoorsmen have gone to great lengths — at least 1,000 kilometres, in fact, down the upper Eastmain and the Rupert — to give Albert Peter Low his due. FULL STORY
March 26, 2003
Quebec Liberal leader endorses Great Whale project
Jean Charest said he would like to see the Great Whale River developed for hydroelectric production, the Montreal Gazette reported yesterday.
Charest, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, said he would respect agreements with native communities and environmental assessments. A predecessor, Robert Bourassa, launched the James Bay hydroelectric project in the early 1970s.
Mario Dumont, leader of the Action démocratique du Québec party, was more forceful in his support for a Great Whale project.
The Great Whale project was fiercely opposed by the Crees in the early 1990s and was postponed indefinitely.
"If Mr. Charest wants to build Great Whale, that's a big problem," Bill Namagoose of the Grand Council of the Crees was quoted in the Gazette. "Great Whale is from the Soviet era of megaprojects and those are the projects we oppose totally – and I think Quebecers oppose projects on that scale."
March 25, 2003
Chief endorses Quebec separatist party
Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses has endorsed Quebec's party of separation, the Parti Québécois (PQ), in the upcoming provincial election, according to a story in today's Montreal Gazette.
Moses is quoted in the story denying he has gone separatist, saying it is "about a democratic right to choose the government of the day." The endorsement is a significant move as the Crees have been fiercely federalist and opposed Quebec's separation.
March 19, 2003
Clear-cutting approaches Rupert
Logging encroaching on the Rupert River from the south was a factor that forced Cree leadership to face the inevitable destruction of their traditional lands. From their position, they felt that obtaining compensation was preferable to sitting back and watching, and this led to signing the Peace of the Brave, which included an agreement on the Rupert River diversion, in February, 2002.
James Stone, a wilderness canoeist, writer and researcher, presented this satellite image, taken June 28, 2002, at Hulbert's Wilderness Paddlers Gathering in Vermont. The lightest areas in the lower-right quarter are clear-cuts. The north-south lines are hydro-electric transmission corridors and the Route du Nord highway. The Rupert is in the top-left quarter, running east-west.
Construction equipment moving on winter road
Construction equipment and construction-camp facilities for the EM-1 powerhouse on the Eastmain River have begun moving on a 90-kilometre winter road, according to Don McLeod at Eeyou Istchee Consortium, a Cree agency.
The winter road is a substitute for a Nemaska-to-EM-1, all-weather road behind schedule. Fires last summer and unforeseen problems with wetlands and eskers last fall disrupted construction. The road will be finished this summer.
The winter road is in the slashed clearing for the all-season road. It will be open only until spring thaw when the ground will become soft. As temperatures warm up, traffic will be restricted to morning travel and then to just lighter vehicles.
The EM-1 dam is not part of the environmental assessment now beginning.
RELATED STORY: Road to EM-1 underway
March 4, 2003
New protected areas announced on Cree territory
Quebec today announced five new protected areas in the southern portion of Cree territory totaling 2,659 square kilometres, an area larger than Lake Mistassini.
One area called Muskuuchii, or Bear Mountain, is a sacred site located just east of the confluence of the Harricana and Samson rivers. It was included in the Peace of the Brave agreement and was threatened by logging.
Also protected are Mistikawatin Peninsula, Boatswain Bay, Missisicabi Plain and the lower Harricana River, all in Waskaganish First Nation territory, near or on the James Bay coast. Mining (except existing diamond claims in Muskuuchii) and logging will be banned while hunting and fishing will continue.
Grand Chief Ted Moses of the Grand Council of the Crees sees some vindication for signing the controversial Peace of the Brave. "We started with one area and jointly decided to protect these other areas as well. This was the implementation of the spirit of our new relationship with Quebec."
March 4, 2003
Reverence announces 2003 expeditions
This summer environment group Rupert Reverence will run another round of expeditions descending the Rupert and Eastmain rivers.
The group is inviting the public to participate. Reverence opposes the damming and diversion of northern Quebec waterways.
WEBSITE: Rupert Reverence
March 2, 2003
Environmental assessment a 'waste of time', says environment group
"Rupert Reverence agrees with the general directorship of Hydro-Québec on at least one point: the environmental-impact evaluation process is a waste of time and a waste of public money. For different reasons, of course.
"We have good reasons to doubt the worth of all this process. Remember that no hydro-electric project has ever been stopped in Quebec by the public consultation process. Also remember that the environmental evaluation process provided for in the James Bay Agreement only provides recommendations. The Minister of the Environment – and the National Assembly – are in no way bound by these recommendations when a decision is to be made concerning the realization or not of Hydro-Quebec’s projects. Already, by a clause in the Cree-Quebec Agreement, the Grand Council of the Cree has consented not to publicly oppose the undertaking of the projects. The Quebec government gains important sums in revenue from the sale of hydroelectricity outside Quebec. Smaller scale projects (the Hertel-des Cantons line project, for example) have already been approved by the National Assembly despite unfavourable public opinion and court judgements.
February 28, 2003
Quebec politician calls for massive new hydro projects; Crees denounce plan
The leader of the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) party has called for construction of massive new hydro development projects, according to a story in yesterday's Montreal Gazette.
Mario Dumont wants Quebec to take advantage of the vast wealth that could be unleashed for the province by building giant dams. "He said 'real' environmentalists and ecologists understand hydro development is in fact a 'green energy, which is good for the planet,'" the Gazette story reported.
"I am shocked by the statements of Mr. Dumont!" said Grand Chief Ted Moses in a statement. "We will have no choice but to oppose such development plans."
February 27, 2003
Environmental assessment almost set to start
Quebec, Canada and the Crees have agreed to the terms for the environmental assessment of the Rupert River diversion. The process could begin as early as spring.
The environmental assessment is required by federal environmental-assessment legislation and by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which established the original James Bay hydroelectric projects over Cree objection in 1975.
An additional powerhouse on the Eastmain River, EM-1A will be covered by the assessment. This powerhouse will receive diverted Rupert waters. EM-1, now under construction, has undergone an environmental assessment.
The entire project to be built by Hydro Quebec is estimated at $2 billion. It calls for four dams, 51 dikes, 395-square-kilometre of flooded land, 12 kilometres of diversion channels or tunnels and two permanent access roads.
The agreement says the review will take no more than 20 months. On this schedule, diversion construction will begin by December 2004 and be completed by 2007.
The public has 30 days to comment on the assessment agreement. Comment information is available at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website, as is the agreement.
WEBSITE: Environmental Assessment
February 20, 2003
TV documentary on the Cree deal
APTN, Canada's aboriginal television network, is airing a special on the controversial 2002 agreement between Crees and Quebec, known as Peace of the Brave, which opened the way to the Rupert River diversion. The episode is part of APTN's Venturing Forth series.
APTN airdate: Sunday, February 23
Time: 8 p.m. ET (also 12:30 a.m., Monday)
Network Summary: It is the biggest agreement between aboriginals
and government in world history: $3.5 billion over 50 years, and a share of the benefits from natural resources taken from their land. Nine Cree communities in Quebec voted on this deal on January 30, 2002. On the one hand, the massive extension of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement promises more Hydro-Quebec development and jobs for the Cree people. On the other, the required diversion of the Rupert River and construction of the Eastmain 1,200- megawatt power plant will decimate certain Cree trap lines and disrupt lives, some believe at significant cost to the Cree traditional way of life. When the deal was put to referendum, the Venturing Forth cameras were there, and in this segment, we look at the implications of this historical agreement for the communities involved. From Chibougamau, to Nemaska, we spend time with the people behind the headlines.
February 19, 2003
Log and photos of 2002 river descent now online
A large collection of logs and photos on Camp Wabun's descent of the Rupert River, through the Archipelago via Woollett Lake and the North Channel, is now online.
Wabun, a youth canoe-trip camp on Lake Temagami in Ontario, has canoed the river a number of times since 1963.
WEBSITE: Wabun's 2002 river descent
February 2, 2003
Cree trappers fight artillery range
by Alex Roslin
trapper Paul Dixon has seen southerners troop through his family hunting
grounds to clear-cut the trees, dig mines and hunt animals. But he never
expected a howitzer testing range to be built in the heart of his family's
is just what Canada's largest munitions company is proposing to do in a
swath of land starting 25 kilometres southwest of Chapais, where three
Dixon hunting territories meet.
$1.5-million, 20-kilometre-long range would be the first privately owned,
long-range artillery test site in Canada. SNC Technologies, a subsidiary
of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, proposes to use the site to test
105-millimetre shells it manufactures for the Canadian Forces and NATO.
The booming of howitzers could start this summer.
company would gate off up to 60 square kilometres of hunting grounds
during the testing, which would take place two or three days every other
week, for 60 days each year. The company would also cut down all the trees
in a five-square-kilometre "impact zone" about 45 kilometres
southwest of Chapais.
Laroche, vice-president of operations at SNC Technologies, said the range
will have "almost no" effect on wildlife and the environment,
but acknowledged the blasts could be audible at 40 to 50 decibels - about
the level of a soft conversation - from five kilometres away.
calls the range the final nail in the coffin for wildlife, already already
reeling from forestry, mining and sport hunting. "It's a very, very
sensitive area for moose. It's been a walkway for moose for centuries. My
children go through there on their four-wheelers," he said.
the Waswanipi representative of the Cree Trappers' Association, said 20
Dixon families have hunting camps in the vicinity of the range.
"They're really p---ed off about it."
nearest camp is only two kilometres away.
Technologies was bumped off its range near Nicolet in 1999 because of
concerns about the environmental impact.
company explored another northern Quebec site, near Parent, but regional
authorities there opposed the range because it would disrupt tourism.
project is becoming the latest battle over development on Cree land.
Robert Kitchen, chief of Waswanipi, gave the project a guarded thumbs-up
because it will generate jobs, but said it won't go ahead if local Cree
trappers are opposed. "We've got to respect what they want to
Mayor Donald Bubar disagrees, saying the land is under the jurisdiction of
the municipality of James Bay, which governs 350,000 square kilometres.
Bubar and the other non-aboriginal mayors who make up the council have
already voted for zoning to allow the range.
municipality and the provincial Environment Department must give final
insisted that, in any case, Crees don't hunt there any more. "This
area is not Cree land. It is public land. Trapping is not a major, major
left Dixon fuming.
"It shows the ignorance of non-natives about our way of life. ... If it was going to disrupt tourism somewhere else, it's definitely going to disrupt our way of life."
Originally appeared in Montreal Gazette, January 25.
with permission of the author.
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