Winnipeg, MB — As the 22nd Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) comes to a close at the United Nations in New York City, a number of hydro-impacted First Nation representatives are returning home to Manitoba. The two-week event was an opportunity to liaise and connect with dignitaries and Indigenous representatives from around the world, raising awareness at an international level about the ongoing impacts of hydropower on First Nations in Northern Manitoba.
In the first week of the UNPFII, five Cree women from northern Manitoba held a talk titled, “Hydro-impacted: Cree Women Protecting Earth and Water” at the American Indian Community House in New York City. The women spoke about their personal experience of hydro projects in their communities, sharing powerful stories with attendees that touched on topics such as forced relocation, health issues, loss of livelihoods and thriving industries, living in the shadow of a megadam, lack of consultation, and their broken connection with the land. This presentation was part of a larger project by the Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance chronicling the impacts of hydropower on Indigenous communities in Manitoba.
- Ellen Cook of Misipawistik Cree Nation
- Ila Disbrowe of Tataskweyak Cree Nation
- Hilda Dysart of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation
- Martina Saunders of York Factory First Nation
- Ramona Neckoway of Nisichiwayasihk Cree Nation & University College of the North
- Jarvis Brownlie of the University of Manitoba
In the second week of the UNPFII, Chief Larson Anderson and Councillors from Norway House Cree Nation met with UN diplomats to discuss the unprecedented erosion taking place at 2- and 8- Mile Channels and along the north shore of Lake Winnipeg. From 2003 to 2022 there has been 80-100 meters of shoreline erosion at the inlet of 2 Mile Channel alone, impacting traditional livelihoods, water quality, wildlife movement, and recreation.
Despite ongoing efforts to meet with all levels of government in Manitoba and Canada about the ongoing mismanagement of water levels, it took traveling to the UN to catch the ear of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. In his meeting with Karen Lambert, Chief Anderson detailed the environmental disaster taking place in Norway House and requested assistance in bringing Manitoba Hydro to the table to find a long-term solution to stop the erosion and ongoing issues of fish habitat deterioration, navigation, and the potential underwater burial of old Manitoba Hydro equipment.
The impacts of hydropower in Manitoba are largely invisible to the majority of residents living in the south; however the devastation – past, present, and future – is real. Manitobans need to know the truth and hold government accountable. An election is coming, we need a government that will take responsibility for its actions, be accountable to its partners and citizens, and uphold Indigenous rights.
“We lost our way of life. Just as the residential schools broke familial and language links, the destruction caused by hydro has broken our connection to the land. Our way of life [was] forever altered by this changing landscape, the damming of waterways and flooding of land. And yet this corporation [Manitoba Hydro] has a reputation of being farsighted and environmentally responsible. They sell hydroelectricity as green energy.”
Ellen Cook, Misipawistik Cree Nation and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Council on Hydropower
“Norway House Cree Nation continues to bring up this and other issues to the Master Implementation Committee and although we have had some efforts to clean up the debris and contamination created by the construction of the channels, we are still facing huge erosion issues. Both Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba have been made aware of this issue. We continue to push Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government to do the right thing and to work with Norway House on a long-term solution. But they continue to delay and deflect while my people suffer.”
Chief Larson Anderson, Norway House Cree Nation
Livestream video of Hydro-impacted: Cree Women Protecting Earth and Water UNPFII talk
Norway House Cree Nation 2- and 8-Mile Channel Erosion
Hydro Impacts in Manitoba