PESSAMIT, QC, July 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - The Pessamit Innu Band Council has won a first round in its fight against Hydro-Québec to stop the raising of the water level at the Manicouagan reservoir. In his judgment of July 13, 2017, Justice Serge Francoeur of the Superior Court in Baie-Comeau ruled that the Crown Corporation must immediately stop the process of filling the reservoir which started last year.
This judgment, which is equivalent to an interlocutory injunction, also provides that as of August 2017, the parties must agree to proceed quickly to holding hearings on the issue of a permanent injunction. Should such an injunction be granted, Hydro-Québec would have to then re-establish the water level below the upper limit of the drawdown zone observed in the early 1980s, and keep it at these limits.
Profits vs Environment
Since it became aware of the project already underway to raise the water level of the Manicouagan reservoir, the Innu Council of Pessamit has argued that it is engaged in a struggle between purely financial interests and the firm determination of Innu to protect the environment of Nitassinan (ancestral territory), and consequently, of the entire region.
Above the Law
"Hydro-Québec started raising the water level without even warning us," says René Simon, Chief of the Pessamit Innu. "By doing so, the organization will release methyl mercury, a harmful substance known to concentrate at each level of the food chain, at the top of which are found the Pessamit Innu and the surrounding population. Moreover, the flooding of an environment that has been re-generated over the past four decades will kill several thousand hectares of forest bordering on the reservoir as well as numerous wildlife species, and destroy the spawning grounds of various fish species, several buildings, and cottages. Hydro-Québec's argument that it has had the right to raise the reservoir level since the 1960s is no longer valid because since that time, several Québec and Canadian laws have prohibited anyone from introducing any polluting substances into the environment that cause a risk to human health and a threat to animal species. In our view, it is illegal for Hydro-Québec to unilaterally abrogate the right to pollute."
Above the Supreme Court
After consulting Hydro-Québec's 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, it is clear that Hydro-Québec has been planning on increasing its capacity by 1140 MW, in particular to meet its electricity export targets. The increase in level of the Manicouagan Reservoir is part of this plan. It is also noted on page 35 that to add power to certain facilities, Hydro-Québec intends to "enter into agreements with the regional and Indigenous communities concerned." However, in the case of the Manicouagan Reservoir, it never consulted the Pessamit Innu First Nation, although this is a right that has been confirmed many times by the Supreme Court of Canada. In terms of ancestral rights for Aboriginal Peoples, Hydro-Québec clearly appears to be one of the worst companies in Quebec.
The objective of Pessamit is to obtain a permanent injunction by the spring of 2018 in order to maintain the water level that existed at the beginning of the 1980s, i.e. about 350 meters (1 148 feet) instead of 359 meters (1 178 feet)." The mere fact of having interrupted this process of raising the level of the Manicouagan Reservoir is good news not only for the Pessamit Innu, but also for owners of cottages and buildings located in the sector, for the many users of the territory and especially, especially, for the environment," concluded Chief Simon.
SOURCE Conseil des Innus de Pessamit