Hydro-Quebec plan for economic partnerships with Indigenous communities met with skepticism

A new Hydro-Quebec plan to initiate partnerships with all First Nations in the province is being met with skepticism due to the Crown corporation’s history of environmental devastation on Indigenous lands.

Innu Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Ekuanitshit band council is one of those questioning the utility’s plan.

“We had concerns about certain rivers – especially in my region,” Piétacho told APTN News. “The Magpie River should be protected. There shouldn’t even be a development on this river because it’s very, very important. It should stay as it is.”

The Magpie, located in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec, was the first in Canada to receive legal personhood in 2021 to protect it from future development.

Magpie River

Piétacho said Hydro-Quebec and the government have assured him that there would be no work on the Magpie.

But he would like to have a formal agreement in place.

“We’re often told that we’re going to be consulted, but it’s the way things are done. What are the arrangements? What is consent? You really need consent,” he said in an interview.

Hydro-Quebec and the government say they want to initiate a process of economic reconciliation with First Nations and Inuit.

The goal, according to the utility’s strategic plan, is to build true economic partnerships with Indigenous communities.

Innu Nation

When the plan was announced in November, the Innu Nation released a statement emphasizing the need for consultation and recognition of Aboriginal rights and title.

Francis Labbé, a spokesperson for Hydro-Quebec, said the utility has been moving towards economic reconciliation for some time now.

“The projects that are going to be carried out will be done in partnership and no project will be imposed,” Labbé said in an interview. “And the discussions are going to start right now. It’s already started.”

Innu Chief Gilbert Dominique from Mashteuiatsh band council said, so far, ongoing discussions with Hydro-Quebec have been positive.

For his community, the first step towards economic reconciliation is to build a nation-to-nation relationship with Hydro-Quebec.


“This is a completely new approach for Hydro-Quebec,” Dominique told APTN. “I think it’s inspiring for the future.”

For Piétacho, however, the utility still has a long way to go.

“We know them because I’ve been dealing with them for years,” he said. “And trust has not yet been established at our level.

“Economic reconciliation? We’re still a long way off because they may hear us, but are they actually listening to us? That’s the question.”

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