NEW HAVEN, CT, March 31, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - Three Innu First Nation leaders stated their case concerning the Northern Pass Project during a conference held today at Yale University under the auspices of the Yale Environmental Student Coalition. They stated that the project will accentuate the destruction of the iconic Betsiamites River on Quebec's North Shore. They also argued that Hydro-Quebec lied to the New England public about the conservation of Atlantic salmon in the same river, and also about the displacement of Pessamit Innu families during the implementation of hydropower projects on their Nitassinan (ancestral territory).
The current hydraulic management of the Betsiamites River is having a devastating impact on salmon productivity. Yet, Hydro-Quebec affirmed in a statement issued in New England, that: "The Atlantic salmon has not been eliminated in Quebec's rivers as a result of hydropower development. (...) Furthermore, Hydro-Quebec limits possible impacts on fish populations through the careful design of its generation facilities and by modifying water flow rates throughout the year." False! Hydro-Quebec's hydraulic management has a devastating impact on salmon productivity. It is contributing to the leaching out of fry from rearing sites, the peeling of eggs from spawning grounds, and the clogging of the latter by the clay banks stripped naked, in addition to directly affecting the survival rate of smolts.
The result is a dramatic drop in the number of salmon. Indeed, between 1940 and 1950, about 1,000 salmon catches were recorded per year. That number dropped by more than half since the establishment of the dams in the early 60s. According to the criteria of the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks, the Betsiamites River salmon faces very real short-term extinction, and in view of trends established from 1948 to 2016, the salmon population could potentially disappear in the immediate future. It is clear that Canada's performance stands well below its international commitments concerning salmon, as shown by Hydro-Quebec's behaviour on the Betsiamites River. Quebec's complacency in this regard is scandalous!
In a letter published in the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire, Hydro-Quebec writes: "It's a myth to talk about 'displaced native peoples' in the context of Hydro-Quebec's projects. Hydro-Quebec and Aboriginal people have developed various partnerships to ensure that communities benefit from economic spin-offs of projects (...)." "How can they say such a thing, when it has been clearly demonstrated that from the '50s onwards, the government has exerted pressure to force the settlement of the Pessamiu Ilnut" asked Gerald Hervieux and Jean-Noël Riverin, both members of the Pessamit Innu Band Council. As such, families who brought their children to the Nitassinan to practice traditional activities were deprived of family allowances. Coincidentally, it is precisely at this time that many hydroelectric megaprojects were implemented, all completed in 1978. Another lie in the Hydro-Quebec letter published in the Concord Monitor is about the economic benefits mentioned. All stations built on the Pessamit Nitassinan have been implemented without impact assessments, without authorization and without compensation, which directly contradicts the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982. As part of the Northern Pass Project, Hydro-Quebec thus plans to export unconstitutionally acquired electricity at the expense of Pessamit.
Taking bolder steps
"Since the second half of the nineteenth century, Pessamit has been trying to uphold its legitimate rights associated with the Betsiamites River. Over the past five decades, we have actively participated in all democratic exercises to enforce our rights: parliamentary committees, briefs submitted to the Quebec government, scientific studies on the fragility of the salmon resource, and hearings before the Quebec Bureau of Public Hearings on the Environment. But all in vain. Quebec and Hydro-Quebec's bad faith always quashes our efforts. Faced with the new threat represented by the Northern Pass Project, and faced with Quebec's age-old complacency, we have no choice but to undertake national and international action to change the course of history," Chief Ghislain Picard concludes.
SOURCE Conseil des Innus de Pessamit