Grievances on past hydroelectric projects need to be addressed before more development, says Etienne Riche
CBC News: When Quebec Premier François Legault met with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey in St. John’s on Friday to discuss the Churchill Falls agreement, there were no Indigenous leaders from Labrador present — and that has the grand chief of the Innu Nation concerned.
“This project is under our land territory, our Innu land territory,” Etienne Rich told CBC News. “We lost a lot … when they built that dam.”
The Churchill Falls deal, which sees Newfoundland and Labrador sell cheap electricity from the Churchill Falls hydroelectric station to Quebec, expires in 2041. Rich says the Innu have been left out of the positive benefits of the project built on their land five decades ago.
“Quebec is making billions of dollars in our land, and the Newfoundland government has not made as much. And we as Innu, zero,” he said. The Innu Nation is suing Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls Corporation Ltd. for $4 billion, claiming ecological and cultural damage caused by the damming of the upper Churchill River for the project.
The Innu Nation has also criticized the rate mitigation deal between the federal and provincial governments for Muskrat Falls, claiming the current arrangement will see them lose out on at least $1 billion over the next 50 years.
Rich said the lack of consultation with Indigenous leaders over the Churchill Falls project and the Muskrat Fall rate mitigation agreement has him concerned the voice of his people is not being heard by the provincial and federal governments.
Innu should be at the table: Rich
Muskrat Falls would not have been built if the Innu Nation did not agree to the project, said Rich. “It’s the consent that Innu gave, to continue this project,” said Rich.”I think there is space for Innu Nation to sit at that table when it comes to that kind of talk.”
The federal government and the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador also need to sit down with Indigenous leaders for more consultation about hydroelectric development of Gull Island, said Rich. He said the Innu Nation’s issues with Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls need to be resolved before Gull Island can go ahead.
Services, such as education, cost money, said the grand chief, and one of his priorities is getting a fair share of resource revenue for the Innu Nation. “We are never going to get back the history that we lost, but I think the compensation is very important to us,” he said.
Rich met with Furey on Monday to talk about the premier’s meeting with Legault over Churchill Falls.
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Rafsan Faruque Jugol, Reporter
If you have any tips or concerns regarding the work of journalist Rafsan Faruque Jugol, who is the Peter Gzowski intern for 2021, you can reach him at email@example.com. After spending time in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Rafsan is currently working as a journalist in St John’s.