Treaties and Land Claims: Current Problems


October 21, 2021

Land Claims

Atikamekw Council of Wemotaci and Hydro-Québec agreement

The Atikamekw Council of Wemotaci (CAW) and Hydro-Québec are proud to announce the signature of a master agreement that … marks the beginning of structured discussions that could lead to one or more agreements on matters of common interest.
• economic spinoffs such as contract opportunities, but also job opportunities and training initiatives for community members
• potential benefits with regard to Hydro-Québec’s activities in Nitaskinan, which the community considers its ancestral land.
• concerns regarding the Hydro-Québec equipment on their territory
• Finally, the parties will address Hydro-Québec’s upcoming projects … particularly with a view to setting up tailored information and consultation processes and identifying appropriate economic, environmental, social or cultural measures associated with the projects.

September 23, 2021

Duty to Consult/FPIC

Bill 66 ignores First Nations issues

Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) – AFNQL deplores the complete lack of consideration for the realities of First Nations as presented by the First Nations leaders. The new version of the defunct Bill 61 confirms Quebec’s lack of consideration, even indifference, for economic recovery that is First Nations specific.

“First Nations issues must be part of the public debate and they deserve to be heard as part of the study of the Bill, especially with regard to economic issues where First Nations are light years away from Quebec. And yet, a good part of the wealth comes from the ancestral territories of our nations,” said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL, in reaction to the tabling of Bill 66. He also specified “that the message before the parliamentary committee in June and the letter of last August focused on First Nations economic recovery simply fell on deaf ears”.

March 30, 2021

Land Claims

Innu lawsuit against Hydro-Québec

CISION – The Penobscot Nation of Maine has joined the Innu of Labrador and 5 Québec First Nations and the Innu of Québec to call on President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau to block Hydro-Québec’s plan to build a transmission line to Massachusetts. Their letter calls for a halt to initiatives that would see the state-owned utility make billions of dollars in profits without consulting or compensating the First Nations on whose ancestral territories its electricity is produced and through which it will be transported

December 3, 2020

Land Claims

Innu lawsuit against Hydro-Québec

WEMOTACI – Five First Nations in Québec, the Innu of Pessamit, the Atikamekw of Wemotaci, and the Anishnabeg of Pikogan, Lac Simon and Kitcisakik – have joined the Innu Nation of Labrador to oppose Hydro-Quebec’s massive new power transmission corridor to the United States. In two separate briefs addressed to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), the six Indigenous Nations expressed their opposition to the construction and operation, by Hydro-Québec, of a transmission line dedicated to the export of electricity to New England. The CER has the power to block the project if it does not comply with constitutional requirements. The First Nations and Innu “denounce the administrative strategies… to circumvent the framework provided by the Constitution Act of 1982, contravene its own Environment Quality Act, ignore the jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court, and flout Canada’s international commitments”.

The projects that Hydro-Québec has built on the lands of our First Nations have enabled Québec to industrialize and have provided the majority of its citizens with a better quality of life. However, the indicators of well-being for First Nations communities continue to be comparable to those of least developed countries – a reality that has created and sustained a system in which there are two classes of citizens. To add insult to injury, Hydro-Québec now expects to sell electricity produced on our lands to the United States, and to thereby improve the well-being of American citizens, without even thinking of compensating us for the damage it has caused to our ancestral lands since the beginning of the 20th century. This will not happen without our consent!

October 6, 2020

Land Claims

Innu lawsuit against Hydro-Québec

Canadian Press – Innu Nation of Labrador has filed a lawsuit against Hydro-Quebec seeking $4 billion in compensation for the ecological and cultural damage caused by the damming of the upper Churchill River in the early 1970s. They call the Churchill River’s large watershed Nitassinan. The river itself is called Mishtashipu. The Innu never ceded their land to European settlers and no treaties were signed, lawyer Nancy Kleer said. “They have Aboriginal title to this land,” Kleer said, noting that a formal land claim process started in the 1990s.

Senior Innu leaders said Tuesday the provincially owned utility illegally took land from the Indigenous group without consultation in the late 1960s as construction started on the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project in central Labrador. “Hydro-Quebec has made billions of dollars from that contract, (but) it has not paid us a single penny for the damage to our land or damage to our lives, and to our people,” Grand Chief Etienne Rich told a news conference in St. John’s. “We are extremely disappointed in Hydro-Quebec’s refusal to take responsibility for what they have done to our people and our land.

The massive hydroelectric project led to the creation of the Smallwood Reservoir, which flooded 6,500 square kilometres of traditional Innu territory, destroying fishing and hunting grounds, caribou habitat and ancestral graves, Rich said. The deal to build the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project was signed between Newfoundland and Quebec in 1969, and the project was completed in 1974. As well, Kleer said officials from Hydro-Quebec have for decades refused to negotiate any kind of settlement with the Innu. She said the $4 billion claim is based on calculations suggesting Hydro-Quebec has earned $80 billion in profit from the project, with another $70 billion expected by the time the power contract with Newfoundland and Labrador expires in 2041.

February 25, 2022

Duty to Consult/FPIC

Lawsuit against Québec government for failure in Duty to Consult to protect Caribou

Feb. 25, 2022: NationTalk – The Innu First Nation Council of Essipit and Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan (Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation), who have officially filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court for failure to fulfill its duty to consult on issues related to the protection of Atiku, the caribou.

For more than two decades, Innus have been actively involved in the fight to protect Atiku, which is at the heart of their identity and way of life. Tireless efforts have been made with the Quebec government to ensure that a consultation process and protection measures are put in place for the caribou and its habitat. However, the government has deliberately failed in its constitutional duty to consult and has ignored repeated requests for an appropriate Nation-to-Nation forum to discuss issues related to Atiku.

In 2016 and up until today, since the tabling of an action plan for the development of caribou habitat, the Quebec government has never taken into account nor respected the rights and decision-making role of First Nations concerning this species. Over the years, even though they have agreed to participate openly, the First Nations have deplored the setting up of inappropriate tables and forums that do not allow them to be adequately consulted and accommodated and, more generally, to discuss their ancestral rights, including their ancestral title and other interests.

Even recently, when First Nations submitted a rigorous consultation protocol that remained unanswered, the government continues to stubbornly stall, to multiply nebulous answers, with the explicit objective of imposing its independent commission, which is not the appropriate forum for debating the rights and issues of First Nations. Moreover, this commission is perceived by many as totally useless since the government already has all the specialists and data necessary to act on this issue.

For First Nations, procrastination is unacceptable because of the urgency of the caribou situation, whose decline is already causing an inevitable cultural loss and jeopardizing Aboriginal rights and title.

“Our First Nations have always collaborated in good faith and reiterated their willingness to be stakeholders in the development and decision-making regarding the caribou strategy, in an honourable Nation-to-Nation approach. The government should have seized the opportunity to demonstrate its sincere willingness to undertake the process of collaboration, consultation, and accommodation without delay, as the precarious situation of Atiku requires. We demand the respect of our ancestral rights and immediate measures to protect the caribou and its habitat, based on Innu and scientific knowledge. We recently stated that if the government cannot protect the caribou, the Innu will. We are keeping our promise,” said the Chiefs, Mr. Martin Dufour of the Innu First Nation Council of Essipit and Mr. Gilbert Dominique of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, in one voice.

April 20, 2020

Duty to Consult/FPIC

Opening mine in Nunavik without consulting Inuit

Makivik Corporation – who represent the Inuit of Nunavik, is strongly opposed to the resumption of mining activities in the Nunavik region. The decision was made unilaterally by the government of Quebec without consultation whatsoever with the Inuit and was further supported by a directive issued by the Nunavik’s Director of Public Health, and Nunavik’s Director of Civil Security to partially lift the travel ban to Nunavik for the purpose of the reopening of the mining sites. Inuit account for the vast majority of the population in Nunavik and need to have a say on major regional issues such as this one. Miners started returning to the region yesterday.

“Makivik will not entertain the opening of any mines at this time in Nunavik. This is very dangerous. The Inuit elected officials in the communities and in the different regional organizations need to be heard and need to make the decisions and call the shots. Nunavik cannot and will not be governed by civil servants who may be tempted to use the pandemic to empower themselves” says Makivik President Charlie Watt. “ We have written numerous letters to Quebec on different issues related to the pandemic and they have not responded…not even an acknowledgement of receipt.” As the signatory to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Raglan and Nunavik Nickel Agreement, Makivik Corporation is the political representative of the Inuit of Nunavik, and this is without question. Quebec can’t ignore Makivik and has to fully respect the spirit and intent of the JBNQA. The Inuit can’t accept to go through another bad episode of colonialism in 2020.

January 18, 2022

Aboriginal Rights and Title

Québec Summit on Land Use Planning

Assembly of First Nations Québec-Labrador – AFNQL Chiefs are opposed to any form of government strategy, policy, or development project impacting their territories without, as a priority, being actively involved in discussions. “This announcement is yet another announcement that illustrates the lack of sensitivity, even contempt of the CAQ government towards our territories,” said Interim Regional Chief Lance Haymond. It is, moreover, in this context that last Fall, the AFNQL Chiefs in Assembly adopted a Territorial Declaration to officially advise the Quebec government that First Nations’ elected officials would not hesitate to use all means at their disposal to protect their territories and their inherent, ancestral and treaty rights from any action or policy put forward by the province that is prejudicial to their peoples.

On January 13th, 2022, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) learned, through the media, that a Quebec Summit on Land Use Planning would be held virtually on January 27th. Not only does the program that has been unveiled completely ignore the concerns, rights, and claims of First Nations, but this announcement also goes against what Minister Laforest stated to AFNQL Chiefs during her participation in the First Nations and Quebec Grand Economic Circle, last November, in Montreal.

On that occasion, when questioned by AFNQL Chiefs on the “National Strategy on Urbanism and Land Planning” (Stratégie nationale d’urbanisme et d’aménagement des territoires), the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing committed to holding political level discussions with First Nations on this specific subject matter, considering the level of discontent expressed by several Indigenous communities with regard to this Strategy which was developed unilaterally, by Quebec.

August 5, 2020

Land Claims

Rights to ancestral territories

NationTalk – The Innu First Nation of Pessamit and the Atikamekw First Nation of Wemotaci (Province of Quebec) are joining forces to put an end to the stranglehold of the Quebec government and Hydro-Québec on their traditional territories. They mean to obtain compensation for production facilities, reservoirs and transmission lines set up without their consent by threatening to derail a project to run a high-voltage transmission line through Maine to Massachusetts.

Currently, 36% of the total hydroelectric power installed by Hydro-Québec comes from Innu, Atikamekw and Anishnabeg traditional territories, protected by ancestral and treaty rights that have never been respected. In total, 33 production structures, 130 dams and dikes, 10,400 km2 of reservoirs, tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission, distribution and road lines have been illegally installed. These facilities continue to be operated by Hydro-Québec in violation of the rights recognized by the Constitution Act of 1982 and the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Canada.

For nearly a century, six Innu, Atikamekw and Anishnabeg communities have borne the brunt of successive hydroelectric developments that have allowed Quebec to industrialize and the majority of its citizens to access a better quality of life. Conversely, these successive and massive hydroelectric developments on their traditional territories have never translated into a better quality of life for the members of the communities most directly and negatively impacted. Quite the contrary! All internationally recognized well-being indicators are largely unfavourable for them compared to the entire population of Quebec and are comparable to those of third world countries.

in 1996. The Supreme Court of Canada then definitively put an end to Quebec’s claims that First Nations had no ancestral rights over the territory of the province. Since then, successive provincial governments have embarked on a strategy of perpetually delaying enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling. In doing so, Quebec scandalously self-awarded itself a suspended sentence.

The government of Quebec and Hydro-Québec have never had and still do not have the moral and constitutional legitimacy to operate 33 of the 63 hydroelectric production structures since they have never consulted and compensated the First Nations concerned. They have even less right to sell electricity in the United States when 13,200 MW, or 36% of the installed capacity in Quebec out of a total of 36,700 MW, has been usurped from the said First Nations. And if the government turns a deaf ear, Pessamit and Wemotaci will do their utmost to derail the project and ensure a resounding NO to NECEC! (New England Clean Energy Connect)

November 17, 2020

Aboriginal Rights and Title

The Anicinape Nation ancestral rights

The Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs – Minister Ian Lafrenière met with the chiefs of the Algonquin communities and the Grand Chief of the Tribal Council of the Anishinabeg Algonquin Nation, Verna Polson. All parties agreed to immediately begin a negotiation process to find lasting solutions to avoid a repeat of the situation experienced in the fall, during the moose hunting season, in the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. it was agreed that the random draw for hunting, conducted by the Sépaq, would be postponed until March 2021 and that there would be no pressure applied during the negotiations

October 8, 2020

Aboriginal Rights and Title

The Anicinape Nation ancestral rights

First Nations Drum – The Anicinape Nation is calling for a complete moratorium on moose hunting on its unceded ancestral territory. Faced with the Quebec government’s refusal to authorize this moratorium, roadblocks have been erected in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve to prevent hunters from passing through. Yesterday, the Quebec Superior Court granted a provisional injunction to the Petawaga zec, part of the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve. The Anicinape Nation holds ancestral rights, including an unextinguished ancestral title, on the entire territory of the wildlife reserve.

Moose hunting is at the heart of the culture and identity of the Anicinape Nation and all First Nations in Quebec. The protection of moose is a collective duty to ensure the vitality and sustainability of culture and traditions. Government leniency in this file has direct impacts on the rights of the Anicinapek, which are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and protected by Canadian and international law.