Archive | The Aboriginal Struggle Against the Great Whale Project | 1000 faces, one country

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Archives | The struggle of Aboriginal people against the Great Whale project | 1000 faces, one country

The Grande-Baleine hydroelectric project was thwarted by the opposition of Nunavik Aboriginals.

On this August 9, International Day of Indigenous Peoples, we look back on the fight led by the Crees and the Inuit of Nunavik to have the Grande-Baleine hydroelectric project canceled.

“Good evening, Robert Bourassa has just given the green light to phase two of James Bay. The government will build three new power plants that will cost $7 billion and create 40,000 jobs. »

— Marie-Claude Lavallée, 1988

Report by journalist Marthe Blouin on the announcement by Prime Minister Robert Bourassa of the Grande-Baleine project

It was March 8, 1988, as host Marie- Claude Lavallée of Montréal this evening, that the Premier of Quebec Robert Bourassa announces the hydroelectric project of Grande-Baleine.

The report by journalist Marthe Blouin details the Prime Minister's statement to the National Assembly of Quebec.

Robert Bourassa talks about a second phase of the James Bay hydroelectric project.

The Grande-Baleine project is proving to be of considerable scope.

To build the Grande-Baleine complex, we then plan build three hydroelectric generating stations and four water basins on the Big and Little Whale Rivers as well as on the Coast River.

The project would occupy 59,000 square km, including 1,667 square kilometers of land that would be flooded.

The Grande-Baleine complex should produce 2,500 megawatts annually. These would be exported to certain American states, notably that of New York.

Robert Bourassa says it's one of the happiest days of his life. However, he does not seem to see the obstacle that will derail his dream.

In Nunavik, in northern Quebec, the populations of the Cree and Inuit villages located at the mouth of the Great Whale River become aware of the intentions of the Quebec government.

This causes an outcry. In August 1991, nine Cree communities met for an annual convention in Mistissini.

Report by journalist Danielle Levasseur on the Crees who oppose the Grande-Baleine project. Claude Desbiens hosts the Téléjournal.

Journalist Danielle Levasseur reports in a report presented in the Téléjournal on August 11, 1991 that the Crees reiterate their firm opposition to the Great Whale.

As Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees Matthew Coon-Come mentions, the Great Whale project would damage their ancestral hunting and fishing territories.

The Cree chief also denounces the increase in mercury pollution, which poisons fish. In the same breath, he deplores the destruction of caribou habitat.

At that time, about 30% of the food supply for the inhabitants of the region still came from hunting and fishing.

The report also shows that the local indigenous populations are active in mobilizing the international community against the Great Whale project.

At their annual convention, the Cree invited prominent figures from the United States, including the son of former United States Senator and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to witness the potential impacts of the project.

The latter urges the State of New York to give up the electricity that Grande-Baleine would produce.

“To everyone's surprise, Mr. Parizeau immediately announces that the Grande-Baleine project, dear to Robert Bourassa, has been put off indefinitely. »

— Jean Bédard, 1994

The mobilization of the Crees and the Inuit challenges the legislators and the courts of the United States as much as the international community at the rostrum. United Nations.

In September 1994, the Parti Québécois, led by Jacques Parizeau, won the provincial elections in Quebec.

Report by journalist Jean Bédard on Prime Minister Jacques Parizeau's decision to cancel the Grande-Baleine project. Michèle Viroly hosts the Téléjournal.

On November 18, 1994, as reported by journalist Jean Bédard in a report presented to Téléjournal, Cree leader Matthew Coon-Come denounced, during a visit to Washington, the Great Whale project.

This project smacks of colonialism and racism, says the indigenous leader.

Prime Minister Jacques Parizeau is outraged.

He advised Chief Coon-Come long ago that building the Great Whale project was not a priority for his government.

Then in the middle of his press conference, to general amazement, Jacques Parizeau announces that the project is cancelled. How can this decision by Prime Minister Parizeau be explained?

First there is the bill for the project, which has continued to increase. It was estimated in 1994 that the Grande-Baleine project would cost between 13 and 14 billion dollars.

Hydro-Québec had spent 250 million dollars only for environmental impact studies . However, they had to be started all over again!

What put off a premier who has long been the province's finance minister.

To the financial abyss was added a political problem which grew visibly.

The Parti Québécois government of Jacques Parizeau was preparing for a second referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

He actively sought international allies to support him in his quest for independence.

However, the campaign of denunciation carried out by the Crees in the United States and in the rest of the world undermined the hopes of an international rallying to a possible declaration of independence of Quebec .

A fine strategist, Jacques Parizeau torpedoed the Grande-Baleine project to accomplish a goal he believed to be more important and more noble.

It was a great victory for the Cree and Inuit peoples of northern Quebec.

The Grande-Baleine project has not yet emerged from oblivion.

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