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Eastmain 1-A and Rupert River Diversion Hydropower Project

Maintaining the Traditional Practices


The COMEX report underlines that, over the past few decades, Cree society changed from a life style almost entirely based on traditional activities, fishing, hunting and trapping and sharing resources, to a market economy involving adequate education and paid jobs. Therefore, their presence on the territory has changed, due to the influence of a number of factors, including work schedules and the need to stay in the village during the school year. It is now more difficult for young people to learn the practices, knowledge and rules of life in the forest, which require long stays on the territory, while continuing their studies. Outside factors, such as the drop in price of furs, the ever-climbing fuel costs and the beneficiary allowance of the Income Security Program (ISP) for Cree hunters and trappers considered insufficient by the Cree, considerably reduce the financial benefits related to life in the forest. As well, the Cree population has more than doubled in the past 30 years, whereas the territory is increasingly opened to forestry, mining and hydropower development.

Fewer and fewer people are choosing to live strictly according to traditional Cree life. However, many people have seasonal work, and then spend several weeks or months in the forest. Furthermore, people plan to return to living in on territory once they retire from work. Although modern times have substantially changed the traditional Cree life style, life in the forest remains a very important cultural and spiritual activity.

Analyzing Project Impacts on Traditional Practices

First and foremost, a summary of the main components of land use, resource use practices and components likely to be affected by the project was made, based on documents from various interviews conducted with trappers and users of community sites. Testimonials during public hearings were also used in this summary.

Based on the information provided by the proponent regarding the expected impacts of the project and specific data on using the territory found in the summary, an analysis of the potential changes to the territory and the adaptation needed to continue activities was carried out.

In addition to the result of this analysis, the mitigation and compensation measures proposed by the proponent or by the users aiming to facilitate continuing activities based on new conditions or compensating for the loss or major changes to hunting, fishing and trapping areas. Lastly, the various environmental follow-up programs proposed by the proponent will help evaluate the extent of the residual impact. The follow-up program will help to confirm the extent of the impacts and the efficiency of mitigation measures. They will also involve the Cree population in field surveys and keep them informed of the results , as well as promote re-appropriation of the modified territory by the users.

A substantial part of the final analysis is based on the satisfaction of trappers and users of the territory, who expressed their views during interviews conducted by the proponent, as well as at public hearings in the communities. These comments played an important role in the final analysis, since these people are in the best position to evaluate the effect that the project had on their activities.

Project Impacts on Traditional Activities

Seven hunting grounds will be directly affected by the creation of the Rupert diversion bay. Flooded parts of the territory, between 0.13% and 15.42% of hunting grounds, will no longer be available for hunting and trapping, and the high mercury levels in fish could result in users avoiding these sectors for long periods of time. The flooded areas are located mainly in four hunting grounds of the Mistissini community territory, which are large enough to allow users to use other parts of their land. A few permanent and temporary camps will be relocated and several valued sites will be affected either by flooding or by the construction of infrastructures.

As for the Rupert River, downstream from the control structure, although flow conditions will be different, traditional activities will be able to continue due to the hydraulic structures in place to maintain water levels. Changes to the territory, such as the surface exposure of certain banks and the relatively noticeable drop in water level in certain segments will require users to modify their hunting and trapping practices, fishing techniques and ways of travelling along the banks. There is much uncertainty as to the effects reducing the flow will have on the community fishing site used by the Smokey Hill community, located on the territory of the Waskaganish community.

In increased-flow areas, conditions will be similar to those that currently prevail.

Conditions to be fulfilled by the proponent

Several conditions from the Ministère are aimed at the participation of Cree users in the follow-up programs to promote the re-appropriation of the territory by the Crees and to prevent them from turning their backs on the modified territory and thus lose their traditional know-how and way of life in these areas.

Several conditions applying to fish are described in a specific document. A follow-up program on birds and wildlife enhancement will be developed. Follow-up programs and specific measures will apply to land animals, especially the caribou, moose and beaver populations, i.e., relocation of beavers living in areas which will be flooded or affected by changes in water levels.

Note that the proponent intends to follow-up on different aspects of hunting, fishing and trapping by users of the territory. The follow-up will focus especially on the use of hunting grounds and camps, the use of wildlife resources, access to the camps, exploration of new areas and assessment of mitigation and compensation measures. This follow-up will be done throughout construction period and up to ten years after the beginning of operations.

In order to ensure that traditional cisco (Coregonus artedi) fishing activities continue in the Smokey Hill area, the proponent will have to, if changes to the flow make the site difficult to use, develop in cooperation with the Waskaganish community and trappers concerned a new dip-net fishing site and an information program for the community to promote, value and maintain the use of the Smokey Hill fishing site.

The proponent must carry out several follow-ups and measures regarding traveling by boat or snowmobile, which will include navigation charts and collecting wood debris, as well as a follow-up and mapping program for snowmobiles and traveling. To protect the rights of Cree communities, he must develop and implement guidelines for non-native workers hunting and fishing activities.

Working closely with the concerned Cree authorities, the proponent will have to set up an infrastructure to receive comments and complaints, and to propose solutions to any problem resulting from the dissatisfaction of territory users regarding project impacts.

The proponent must work with COMEX to set up a process for consulting with the Cree population. This consultation should take place around 2011, after the end of the construction period and before the beginning of operations. This consultation will include learning the point of view of the Cree regarding the effectiveness of mitigation measures that will have been implemented and the measures that could be put in place to overcome the project’s residual impacts.

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