Protesters from Tataskweyak Cree Nation removed a roadblock from the Keeyask Dam site access road on Saturday after Manitoba Hydro obtained a court injunction compelling them to leave the previous day.
The blockade began July 10, with protesters demanding a forensic audit of all money paid by Manitoba Hydro to the Tataskewyak Cree Nation and other partners of the band, as well as the termination of all service with consultants Ernie Hobbs and Associates and lawyers Bob Roddick and Doug McKenzie. Protesters also wanted Manitoba Hydro to negotiate with the Tataskweyak Cree Nation Fishermen's Association and were upset because they say Chief Duke Beardy and band councillor Norman Flett were removed by a band council resolution passed May 21 by four other councillors but continue to enter agreements with Manitoba Hydro.
Alberteen Spence, a Green Party candidate in the last federal election and one of the people involved in the roadblock, said the protest had raised tensions in the community, claiming she had been asked to leave a meeting at the Keeyask office that was attended by Flett and that she had also been told to leave Tataskweyak Cree Nation.
"Many of those who attended [the meeting] stopped me from voicing my concerns about Norman [Flett]'s conduct and style of leadership," Spence wrote in an update to media on July 12. "But people didn't want to hear my side, they attacked my character and blamed me for the situation that was upon the community."
Spence said the protesters had not yet received any response from Manitoba Hydro at that time. The following day, she stated that the protesters did not want to stop the dam entirely, but merely wanted the community to regain control of the partnership it had agreed to with Manitoba Hydro. The protesters allege that 70 per cent of $92 million in payments from Manitoba Hydro is going to consultants and lawyers.
"There are those polar differences on hydro development, some are very supportive and comply with the whole deal, and others oppose and never wanted it the first place," Spence wrote in a July 13 news release.
On July 21, Spence told the Nickel Belt News in an e-mail that during the blockade, Manitoba Hydro's Bob Monkman told the protesters he was conveying their concerns to Manitoba Hydro's chief executive officer and that the CEO would not meet to discuss their concerns while the blockade was ongoing. She said the protesters took their barricades down in good faith but had not heard from Manitoba Hydro since.
"Manitoba Hydro has not and will not be meeting with the protesters," said Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Scott Powell. "We will participate in a future meeting co-ordinated by the RCMP between the police, and provincial and federal government representatives."
Spence said Manitoba Hydro's lawyers indicated to the judge who granted the injunction against the protesters that the RCMP would be taking the lead in talks with members of Tataskweyak Cree Nation. She also said that she spoke briefly with one of Hydro's lawyers at the hearing and encouraged Manitoba Hydro to maintain an open dialogue with the protesters.
"I also reminded her of our impoverishment and living conditions that these developments put us in, and that [Premier] Greg Selinger should stop lying to the world when he boasts about ethical development and partnerships in northern Manitoba," said Spence.