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Michael Sabia apologizes to the Innu of Unamen Shipu for the Lac-Robertson power station

Photo: Francis Vachon Le Devoir The big boss of Hydro-Québec, Michael Sabia (who we see here in Pessamit in February), went to the Innu community of Unamen Shipu on Monday to make this gesture, which he sees as part of his desire to “ economic reconciliation.

Marie-Michèle Sioui to Unamen Shipu (The Romaine)

Published at 12:44 p.m. Updated at 3:20 p.m.

  • Quebec

The big boss of Hydro-Québec, Michael Sabia, apologized Monday to the Innu of Unamen Shipu (La Romaine), on the sidelines of the signing of a $32 million agreement on 23 years to “settle” the delicate issue of the Lac-Robertson hydroelectric power station, built in 1995 on Innu territory without them being consulted or involved in the project.

This way of doing things was “unacceptable,” Mr. Sabia told members of the community gathered at the community center. “For that, I’m sorry,” he said before apologizing.

Nearly thirty years after the power station was commissioned, Mr. Sabia flew to the Innu community of the Lower North Shore to make this gesture of reparation, which he included in his desire for “economic reconciliation”.

The agreement, called Mishta Uashat Lac-Robertson, “embodies the shared intention of the community and Hydro-Québec to maintain a long-term, mutually profitable relationship based on respect, collaboration and trust,” wrote Hydro-Québec in a press release.

The state corporation has made “economic reconciliation” with indigenous communities a priority in its 2035 action plan. Hydro-Québec has been eyeing the Petit Mécatina River, located on the Nitassinan, the traditional territory of the Innu. A study on the hydroelectric potential of this river was also launched in April. The river's potential has been estimated at 1,200 megawatts (MW) in the past, but its development would require flooding 228 km2, or nearly half the surface area of ​​the island of Montreal. Until now, this project has been slowed down by opposition from the Innu of Unamen Shipu.

A first visit in November

The Lac-Robertson power station, with a power of 21 megawatts and an energy production capacity of 5.5 terawatt hours, was built in 1995 on the Ha! Ha! in order to supply a series of villages on the Labrador coast and the Lower North Shore. It is part of a complex which also includes a diesel-powered thermal power plant. This supplied Unamen Shipu until 2022 — the year the community was connected to the main Hydro-Québec network, with the aim of “decarbonization”.

During a previous visit to Unamen Shipu, Mr. Sabia delivered a letter acknowledging the wrongs of the past to Chief Jean-Baptiste Lalo, who was in office during the construction of the Lac-Robertson power station. “Ah, I remember,” said the president and CEO of Hydro-Québec when he saw, in the foggy day, the building housing the community’s band council, whose architecture is inspired by the medicine wheel with its red, yellow, black and white columns.

To go further

  • A “historic” agreement with Quebec greeted with skepticism in Pessamit
  • Hydro-Québec studies the potential of the Petit Mécatina river
  • Interactive | How would you manage Hydro-Québec ?

A little less than a thousand Innus live in the community of Unamen Shipu, accessible by plane only, or by boat in the summer. The federal government in 1956 created a “reserve” for the Innu where the French, the Labrador Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company had previously established fishing and trading posts.

According to Michael Sabia, the agreement signed Monday is based on “two fundamental principles of economic reconciliation.” “First of all, it is a step towards recognizing and dealing with the past. And for the years to come, it creates a source of income that the community can invest according to its own priorities,” he argued. The chief of Unamen Shipu, Raymond Bellefleur, has in the past raised the possibility of building a house for the community's elders.

Also on the trip, the Minister responsible for Relations with First Nations and Inuit, Ian Lafrenière, described the agreement as “historic”. “We are making significant progress towards reconciliation and the co-construction of a better future and a better relationship, as we did recently with Pessamit. Today, we are collaborating with the Unamen Shipu community to contribute to improving the quality of life of its members,” he said.

Kateri Champagne Jourdain, minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, welcomed an agreement “achieved in a spirit of mutual trust and respect”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116