O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation sues Manitoba Hydro for ‘years of harm’

O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN), along with two associations located on South Indian Lake has filed a law against Manitoba Hydro for what it calls a “half century of harm” because of projects that were undertaken against their wishes.

“How can we teach our children our traditional practices when our lands and waters are being destroyed?” said OPCN Chief Shirley Ducharme in a statement Friday.

“We need to protect South Indian Lake for the future of our people.”

According to the statement of claim filed in Winnipeg’s Court of King’s Bench on May 19, OPCN is suing along with the Community Association of South Indian Lake and the South Indian Lake Fisherman’s Association. South Indian Lake is a community of 1,120 people located 130 km northwest of Thompson, Man.

Manitoba Hydro is a Crown corporation responsible for both electrical and gas sources in the province.

The project that is targeted in the statement of claim is the Churchill River Diversion project that was completed in 1976. According to the claimants, it redirects 85 per cent of the flow of the Churchill River to hydro electric dams to the south.

“The Project resulted in the forced relocation of the entre community of South Indian Lake and the imposed burning of the previous settlement. Beaches have been obliterated. Dozens upon dozens of islands have flooded or eroded off the map.

“The fishery—which made the community a beacon of northern self-reliance and stability for decades—has collapsed.”

Read the Statement of Claim here: 

Download (PDF, 812KB)

The statement said the diversion project has “significantly altered the water level” and because of that “the fluctuating water level has eroded the shoreline.”

“As a result of these changes to South Indian Lake, the shoreline is now almost devoid of the once-teeming wildlife and fish populations.

The three claimants are asking the court for compensation from Manitoba Hydro, for the government agency to “restore ecological integrity” to the lake, and an injunction “restraining Manitoba Hydro from operating the Diversion in a way that interferes with the use and enjoyment of lands and Treaty rights.

“The Manitoba government and Manitoba Hydro have succeeded in doing what the Federal government and the churches have not been able to do in the last 500 years, and that is the cultural, social and economic genocide of a people,” said Steve Ducharme, a fisher and president of the fisherman’s association.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said the corporation wouldn’t be commenting and a statement of defence would be filed “in due course.”

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