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Cree women to blockade road to Keeyask dam

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A group of women from Tataskweyak Cree Nation will blockade the road into Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask dam site at noon today to protest hefty Hydro consulting fees, poor band governance and secrecy they say plagues the project.

"This has been ongoing but mostly it’s about hydro-related businesses that have taken our leadership away and neglected the community," said Alberteen Spence, a member of the newly-created Women's Governance Council.

Spence, a vocal opponent of TCN’s current chief and council, said the group wants a forensic audit to determine how millions in dam-related consultation costs have been spent, and how band-owned businesses operate.

It’s the latest chapter in an internal battle at TCN, fuelled by news late last month that the cost of lawyers and consultants hired to help First Nations negotiate agreements with Hydro had risen to more than $223 million, up from about $160 million in late 2009. That includes more than $100 million in negotiating costs for TCN and War Lake First Nation on the Keeyask dam alone.

Earlier this year, a group of dissident band councillors attempted to fire Hobbs and Associates, the consulting firm hired by most northern bands to negotiate long, complex dam deals. In May, the same group of dissident band councillors passed a resolution stripping Chief Duke Beardy of all his powers, due in part to his close relationship with Hobbs. It’s unclear whether that resolution is legal, and the band’s governance is in limbo.

The blockade will be set up on the north access road into the Keeyask site, just off provincial highway 280. Spence said no one will be allowed in to the dam site, though band members will allow workers out.

Construction of the 695-megawatt dam has not yet begun but work on access roads, camps and site infrastructure is underway.

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 12:44 PM CDT: Corrects chief's name to Duke Beardy

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