Hydro Interconnection Project: A letter to the Quebec Minister of the Environment
KITIGAN ZIBI, QC, Jan. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ – The Minister of the Environment, Benoît Charrette, has taken an authoritarian approach that will not only lead to confrontation with three Anishnabeg First Nations, but could also, through his own inconsistency, hinder the completion of the Hertel-New York Interconnection Project.
On December 31, 2020, Benoît Charette used his discretionary power to introduce a change to the regulations that eliminated the obligation of the Quebec government to conduct an environmental assessment in cases of an increase in power generation of hydroelectric facilities. This means that it is now possible to increase the flow of turbines and increase the productivity of equipment without considering the impact of such modifications on traditional First Nations territories, or consulting them.
This action by Benoît Charette constitutes a major infringement of the constitutional rights of First Nations, but this does not seem to worry the Minister too much. The concerns lie rather with the Anishnabeg of Kitigan Zibi, Lac Simon and Pikogan (Abitibiwini). Since they no longer have a say in an issue that directly affects the exploitation and preservation of their ancestral territory (Nitakinan), where – let’s not forget – a significant percentage of the electricity destined for the United States is produced and transported, the communities concerned have decided to fall back on the very raison d’être of this project. In an email sent to the Minister on October 24, 2022, they asked to be heard in the context of a consultation on the interconnection line project, since the electricity destined to supply the State and the City of New York is produced in part on their territory.
In a letter addressed to them on November 15, Minister Charette flatly refused to consider this request. Deeming it "frivolous" under section 31.3.5 of the Environment Quality Act, he rejected it outright, even though it explicitly referred to the constitutional rights of these First Nations. According to him, since the Quebec section of the Hertel-New York interconnection line is not located on the territories claimed by the three Aboriginal communities, their request is inadmissible. As a result, we can neither be heard in consultations on the impact of increases to power generation on our ancestral territories, nor on the question of the destination and use of electricity produced and transported on our own Nitakinan. The Americans call this a "Catch 22".
But what do the Americans think? In their response sent today to Minister Charrette, the Chiefs of the three First Nations concerned remind him that the political authorities of New York City are well aware of the Aboriginal reality and are concerned about it. They point out that if the Quebec government deems their request for public hearings inadmissible, the Public Service Commission of the State of New York stipulates that specific commitments concerning the First Nations in Quebec must be made. This requirement of the American Commission follows public hearings during which comments and briefs were submitted by some 128 organizations and no less than 5,200 individuals. The Commission states that the impacts of Hydro-Québec’s projects on First Nations are a key concern for many participants in the hearings and that this is particularly the case for New York City. It seems that in New York City, people do not share Minister Charette’s narrow-minded vision.
The Anishnabeg Chiefs also reminded Benoît Charrette that the agreement with the City of New York includes provisions allowing the latter to withdraw from the contract if the rights of the First Nations are not respected. In other words, they point out that the Minister’s authoritarian approach is putting Hydro-Québec’s contract with the United States at risk.
Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg, Dylan Whiteduck, Chief, Tel: 819-449-1225
Jean-Guy Whiteduck, Negotiator, Tel: 819-360-5957
Nation Anishnabe du Lac Simon, Adrienne Jérôme, Chief, Tel: 819-736-4501
Lucien Wabanonik, Negotiator, 819-355-9084
Première Nation Abitibiwinni, Monik Kistabish, Chief, Tel: 819-732.6591,
Steve Rankin, Negotiator, 819-444-9091
SOURCE Coalition Anishnabeg – Kidigan Zibi, Lac Simon, Abitibiwini