Manitoba Hydro employees have been evicted from the staff housing complex at the Jenpeg Generating Station on the Nelson River, according to an Oct. 17 press release from Pimicikamak Okimawin, the Cree nation whose main settlement is at Cross Lake.
Manitoba Hydro staff reamin inside the dam itself, about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg by air, to monitor the facility and Pimicikamak said it will guarantee the safety of the staff and that Manitoba Hydro facilities will not be damaged.
Several hundred Pimicikamak citizens carried out the eviction with the support of the four traditional councils that comprise the elected government of Pimicikamak.
“This is our home; we will not let it be trampled,” said Cross Lake First Nation Chief Cathy Merrick. “This dam has been great for the south but for us it is a man-made catastrophe. Hydro needs to clean up the mess it has created in our homeland. Hydro needs to treat us fairly.”
“We’re just doing what we normally do in the last 2,000 years which is hang around in our lands,” said Tommy Monias, one of the Pimicikamak members at the generating station site. “Hydro is occupying our lands. The game is on their side. They have to serve the ping pong ball. We just served already. We want to wait to see what they have to say. We’ll stay wherever we are as what we always do for thousands of years. This is traditional territory of Pimicikamak people. We were always here. It’s Hydro that showed up here 31 years ago and occupied our lands. This is where my ancestors have travelled for thousands of years.”
Stan Struthers, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, as well as Manitoba Hydro CEO Scott Thomson and Premier Greg Selinger were set to meet with the people at the generating station on Friday, according to the press release, which said that Manitoba Hydro produces an average of $3.8 million worth of power on its five Nelson River dams every day.
“The situation is quite fluid,” Manitoba Hydro public affairs division manager Scott Powell told the Nickel Belt News. “RCMP are on site. Our staff are safe at the power house. Our ongoing concern obviously is for the safety of our employees, members of the public and the protesters themselves as that is an operating electrical facility. The factors underlying that protest are fairly complex, have got a long history and in some cases involve parties other than Manitoba Hydro and Cross Lake. We have been and will continue to be willing to work with Cross Lake to address their concerns with Manitoba Hydro and will continue to hope that we can get the situation resolved as quickly as possible to safeguard not only the safety of the people but also the reliability of our electrical supply in the area."
Pimicikamak is seeking a public apology from the premier for the past and present damages suffered by hydro-affected people and land, as well as a commitment from the province and Manitoba Hydro to fulfill promises in the 1977 Northern Flood Agreement related to community development, environmental mitigation and employment opportunities. A revenue-sharing agreement and/or water rental agreement with Pimicikamak and a commitment from the province and Manitoba Hydro to complete a comprehensive review of how the hydroelectric power generating system in the province’s north intended to help minimize environmental damages.
“We will wait to see what the province will do because they know now we mean business,” Merrick said in a speech to Pimicikamak members at the site Oct. 16.
Pimickamak sent a letter and eviction notice to the Manitoba Hydro CEO on Oct. 6, saying that unless the Crown corporation paid for land occupancy and use of Pimicikamak traditional territory, water rental and fundamental break of the NFA by Oct. 13, “your service(s) will be subject to further collection or action which may include full eviction.”