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This article was published 14/8/2009 (3879 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG - Protesters blocking access to the Wuskwatim dam site have allowed 18 workers to leave but are still blocking entry to the area.
RCMP Sgt. Line Karpish said officers are at the scene and do not plan to intervene as long as it remains peaceful.
"The blockade is actually on a private road, it’s not on Highway 391," Karpish said. "So the motoring public is not being affected."
Karpish said the RCMP has not been asked to intervene in the dispute, adding negotiations are taking place with the protesters and the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.
The blockade, consisting of protesters, vehicles and logs, was set up Thursday, keeping about 880 Manitoba Hydro workers inside the work camp. The work site is located about 45 kilometres southwest of Thompson on the Burntwood River. The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, formerly known as the Nelson House band, is located close to the dam site.
The blockade organizers are protesting the lack of NCN members employed at the site.
NCN chief Jimmy Moore said over the noon hour that there’s been no progress in the dispute but added he expects to meet with Hydro officials at the blockade before the end of the day.
"We’ll be meeting with officials at Hydro who can make decisions before the sun goes down," Moore said. "This is just an employment issue that needs to be addressed."
The $1.3 billion dam project is a partnership between Manitoba Hydro and NCN. When completed, NCN has an opportunity to acquire a 33 per cent stake in the project.
Included in the partnership agreement between NCN and Manitoba Hydro are employment provisions which give hiring priority to qualified NCN members before other aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider said of the 880 workers on the site now, 44 are from NCN and 32 per cent of the total workforce —283 workers — are aboriginal.
Since the project began in August 2006, Hydro says that 2,554 hires, half have been aboriginal and 424 workers, 17 per cent, have been from NCN.
Both Moore and Schneider said they would not be asking the RCMP to intervene, preferring to let the issue be settled by discussion and negotiation.
"I can’t tell the RCMP what to do but they’ve been asked only to monitor the situation, that there is no violence," Moore said.
Schneider said the utility will not ask the RCMP to intervene in the dispute, adding he expects the standoff will end through peaceful negotiations between the protestors and the band.
"I know in these circumstances the RCMP do not want to act quickly," Schneider said. "I think they want to resolve the situation through negotiations, discussions."
Updated on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 10:59 AM CDT: Updates with extra detail, quotes
12:41 PM: Updates with new information and comments from RCMP.