Members of a band now occupying Manitoba Hydro’s Jenpeg generating station met a provincial mediator on Thursday– along with representatives from Manitoba Hydro – in an effort to end their protest.

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This article was published 30/10/2014 (2636 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Members of a band now occupying Manitoba Hydro’s Jenpeg generating station met a provincial mediator on Thursday– along with representatives from Manitoba Hydro – in an effort to end their protest.

The Pimicikamak Cree Nation has been in control of the station for two weeks after locking out all but a skeleton staff to keep the generator running, while demanding that Premier Greg Selinger’s NDP government compensate for decades of flooding.

Pimicikamak Chief Cathy Merrick said a "working group" from the band began meeting provincial officials in the early afternoon, the first face-to-face negotiations between all parties.

"It’s a start," Merrick said. "We’ll see where it takes us. Hopefully, there’s a road map. I hope there’s a commitment from government."

Asked why the chief wasn’t at the meeting, Merrick replied: "I’m waiting for the premier to come here."

A Pimicikamak official later said some progress had been made at the talks, though no deal had yet been clinched.

"Meetings today were productive and the process is moving. We will know more in the next several days," Darwin Paupanakis, Secretary to the Councils, Pimicikamak, said in an email.

Pimicikamak, located about 530 km north of Winnipeg, is populated by about 8,800 residents in some 800 houses – some with three generations under one roof.

Band members charge that the province has not properly compensated residents for flooding damage caused by Jenpeg, located about 20 km from Cross Lake, which opened in 1979 and controls outflows from Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River system.

The band’s demands from the province include:

A public apology from Selinger for past and present harms suffered​ by all hydro-affected peoples and their lands.

A commitment from Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro to engage in a good-faith process to fulfill promises in the 1977 Northern Flood Agreement, including measures related to community development, environmental mitigation and maximum employment opportunities.

A revenue sharing agreement and/or water rental arrangement with Pimicikamak.

Merrick said the meetings with officials in Winnipeg will continue. But the first move had to come from the premier himself, she insisted.

"If the premier is willing to come up to speak to my people, we’ll take it from there," Merrick said.

The band has put a lock on the Hydro employees’ staff house, but have no plans to remove any of the skeleton crew.

Asked if the protest could last much longer, Merrick replied: "It could. You never know. I hope it all works out. But we had to do it. My people have to be respected."

 

Randy Turner

Randy Turner
Reporter

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.