February 6, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

Complete Canadian News World

The Innu community is suing Hydro-Québec for $2.2 billion

The Innus of Uashat mak Mani-utenam (UMM) launched a $2.2 billion lawsuit against Hydro-Québec and a $200 million lawsuit against Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Ltd. ( CF(L) ), ruling that the Churchills Falls hydroelectric plant had “devastating impacts” on their traditional territory. Co).

Begun in the late 1960s in 1971, the plant was built in Labrador “on UMM’s Innu traditional territory, without UMM’s consent or even the slightest consultation of Innu,” we read in the filed application. In Quebec’s Superior Court last Friday.

The plaintiffs pointed out that the construction of the dam, which has a capacity of 5428.5 MW, has caused many disturbances in the area, including flooding of large areas, construction of over 1,000 kilometers of electrification or roads and camps. and the activity is “unlawful and unconstitutional and constitutes a continuing violation by the respondents of ancestral rights”.

Aerial view of the municipality of Churchill Falls, Labrador, about 250 km from the border with Quebec.

Archive photographs, Canadian Press

Aerial view of the municipality of Churchill Falls, Labrador, about 250 km from the border with Quebec.

“The Churchill Falls mega project has had a devastating impact on our people. Hydro-Québec and CF(L)Co have illegally appropriated our lands to benefit from their energy resources for decades. To be a responsible company, Hydro-Québec must right its wrongs and demonstrate respect for our lands, our people and our rights,” responded Mike McKenzie, Innu leader of Uashat mak Mani-utenam.

More than $2.4 billion in damage

Although Hydro-Québec only owns 34.2% of the plant, Innu believes it would never have seen the light of day without the support of the state corporation, which buys most of the electricity generated by the dam.

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As a result, UMM’s Innes is seeking $2 billion in “past and consequential damages” in addition to $200 million in exemplary and punitive damages.

It is also seeking $200 million in damages from CF(L)Co, the company that built and operates the plant.

Interior of Churchill Falls Station.  Power generation facilities are underground.

Archive photographs, Canadian Press

Interior of Churchill Falls Station. Power generation facilities are underground.

“Annual compensation equal to 12.5% ​​of 15% of the annual profits of the head office against which the judgment is to be awarded” was also sought as compensation.

The Crown corporation will not comment on the case as the entire matter is before the courts.

“However, we firmly believe that ongoing dialogue with the community will help us establish a relationship based on trust,” indicated a spokesperson, Francis Lebay, “Hydro-Québec seeks to develop and maintain harmonious and mutually satisfactory relationships with indigenous communities in the context of operations related to its hydroelectric facilities.”

The case comes as Quebec already has to review the contract between Hydro-Québec and the plant, which expires in 2041. Currently, Hydro-Québec pays just 0.2 cents per kWh produced at the plant. By comparison, Quebecers pay 6.139 cents per kWh, 30 times more.

However, Innu believes that any renegotiation of the agreement cannot proceed without their consent.

“Any arrangement or negotiation regarding the future of the Churchill Falls mega project facilities must be done with our participation and consent. Without this, it would be impossible for Hydro-Québec to have a good faith relationship with our nation,” exclaimed Chief Mackenzie.

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UMM’s Innes won another round last December against Hydro-Québec, after the high court ruled that it had not been adequately consulted on the construction of a power line to supply the Alouette aluminum smelter in Sept-Îles.