(A Cross Lake demonstrator at the occupation of a Manitoba Hydro dam. Facebook photo)
By Tim Fontaine
APTN National News
Members of a northern First Nation have begun occupying a hydroelectric dam over longstanding grievances with Manitoba Hydro.
The Jenpeg Generating Station is located 19 kilometres from the Cree community of Cross Lake.
Tommy Monias lives in Cross Lake and is taking part in the occupation. Monias told APTN National News late Sunday that the occupation started Friday and people have been maintaining the camp in shifts, with around 10 people at the site at any given time.
Monias says RCMP are monitoring the situation but the occupiers told them it’s going to be a peaceful protest.
He also says “a middle manager” from Manitoba Hydro contacted the group hoping to sit down and talk. But Monias says they’re digging-in for a long occupation because he says previous discussions with Manitoba Hydro over grievances have gone nowhere.
“They always want to sit and talk but nothing ever happens,” Monias said. “We’ve never reached any solutions that aren’t in the best interests of Manitoba Hydro.”
Monias says the issue is larger than utility bills. There are issues of treaty rights to land and a “Northern Flood Agreement” which he says isn’t being implemented. The NFA is supposed to compensate northern Manitoba First Nations affected by hydro development.
No one from Manitoba Hydro was immediately available for comment.
A Facebook group called “Pimicikamak Occupation of JenPeg” has been created that shows photos of several people camped alongside the road that crosses the dam.
Pimicikamak is a Cree word describing the land and people of the area.
Nearly 5,000 people live in the Cross Lake area, which is located over 700 kilometers north of Winnipeg.
Local residents there say they have some of the highest electricity and heating bills in the province, despite the electricity generated from a dam in their own territory.
Calls to the nearby RCMP detachment in Cross Lake went to a voice message.