My Turn: Hydro-Quebec cannot rewrite history

  • Eric Canape (left standing), a member of the Pessamit Innu tribal nation of Quebec, Canada, speaks during a meeting with opponents of a proposed Northern Pass power project on July 20 in Concord. Tribal representatives Jean-Noel Riverin (second from right) and Gerald Hervieux (right) also attended. The tribe opposes the U.S. power project, saying it would accommodate a hydro-power company that has decimated a salmon fishery in Quebec that the tribe depends upon. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 8/27/2017 12:10:07 AM

Hydro-Quebec is “shocked,” “outraged” and “offended,” according to spokeswoman Lynn St-Laurent (Monitor Forum, Aug. 11) at Laura Magzis’s suggestion of “cultural genocide” (Monitor letters, Aug. 8).

St-Laurent claims in her response that nothing could be further from the truth than such a concept and defended Hydro-Quebec’s efforts with so-called facts.

As the subject of these two articles, I feel compelled to clearly recall the facts and remind St-Laurent that denying history will not make it disappear – and even more, reveal the inconsistency of the revisionist history that has conjured a new prominent role for Hydro-Quebec as the corporation fighting for the causes of the First Nations.

This is truly shocking to the Pessamit Innu First Nation whose lives were irrevocably harmed by the actions of the Quebec government owned and sanctioned company as the facts show.

The facts:

Between 1956 and 1978, 13 hydroelectric power stations and 11 reservoirs have been installed on Pessamit traditional territory forcing the Pessamit Innu First Nation from its vast traditional territory to live on a small reservation on the north shores of the St. Lawrence River.

29 percent of Hydro-Quebec’s installed capacity in the Quebec Province has been acquired illegitimately to the detriment of Pessamit.

3,170 square miles of hydroelectric reservoirs have flooded and devastated all the rivers that access the Pessamit territory.

Economically sustainable activities for the First Nation, like hunting, fishing and trapping, have been eliminated by Hydro-Quebec.

With only one exception, all hydroelectric facilities have been built without impact assessment studies, without Pessamit’s consent, without compensation, and in violation with the Canadian Constitution and Pessamit’s fundamental human rights.

Consequently, 29 percent of the electricity that Hydro-Quebec endeavors to sell in New England, such as Northern Pass and other proposals, still originates from Pessamit territory and therefore is owned by Pessamit.

Hiding the facts is no longer possible.

For 60 years, it was impossible for Pessamit to make their voice heard in the halls of government or the legislature of Quebec. Hydro-Quebec’s primacy conveyed by money has always been used to fight off legitimate claims and constitutional rights and to impose the Quebec political will upon Pessamit.

To this day, Hydro-Quebec is also directly infringing on three international conventions ratified by the Canadian government, including the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is our firm intention to denounce Hydro-Quebec’s disinformation machine throughout New England. In this regard, Pessamit gives its unconditional support to the New Hampshire citizens in search of true answers concerning the ethical and environmental aspects of Hydro-Quebec’s so-called “clean energy.”

Further, the Pessamit firmly stands against Hydro-Quebec’s manipulation of history for profit and to otherwise make them feel better about their company profile.

Economic imperatives do not allow Hydro-Quebec to rewrite history in its favor, nor to present itself as a “good” corporate model in its relations with First Nations.

The inescapable conclusion is that Hydro-Quebec has ravaged the Pessamit social harmony and rendered it destitute. We reiterate the fact that the forced migration of the entire First Nation, the Pessamiuilnut, is a defining act of a cultural genocide.

(Rene Simon is chief of the Pessamit Innu First Nation.)

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