Chief steps in after rebels block off northern dam

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A renegade group from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has constructed a roadblock at the entrance to the Wuskwatim dam in northern Manitoba, trapping as many as 800 Manitoba Hydro workers inside the work camp.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/08/2009 (4790 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A renegade group from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has constructed a roadblock at the entrance to the Wuskwatim dam in northern Manitoba, trapping as many as 800 Manitoba Hydro workers inside the work camp.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider confirmed Thursday night the blockade — which includes about a dozen people, a handful of vehicles and a pile of logs — was set up late in the afternoon between Highway 391 and the security gate to the dam.

“It’s going to give us a few problems,” Schneider said.

“I understand the (band) chief is in transit to meet with them. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.”

The proposed 200-megawatt generating-station dam is located about 45 kilometres southwest of Thompson on the Burntwood River. Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, formerly the Nelson House band, is not far from the dam.

Chief Jimmy Moore said the blockade is not sanctioned by his council.

He said he’s been told the group took action because it believes not enough aboriginals have been hired to work on the $1.6-billion generation project, scheduled for completion in 2012.

“The people directly involved call themselves sovereigntists. They don’t even respect our First Nations laws,” Moore said. “They don’t recognize our authority.”

Moore said he and members of council have a meeting scheduled with Manitoba hydro on Monday to discuss the employment issue, a meeting planned well before the blockade went up.

“We’ll review the actual numbers,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s fair employment. We have a lot of our people willing to work and wanting jobs from hydro.”

Moore acknowledged the band has an important partnership with hydro, and the blockade could create a financial hardship.

“It will cost us money if we don’t allow people to go through. This is their turnaround time,” he said.

One worker called the Free Press on Thursday night, saying he won’t be able to fly back to Winnipeg today after spending 28 days at the work camp.

He’s unsure how long the blockade will be up.

“My family is very upset,” said the man, who didn’t want his name used. “It’s the end of my rotation. I want to go home and see them, but I can’t.”

Schneider said the camp is self-sufficient and has enough supplies to last, if the blockade is short-lived.

He said the RCMP officers are at the site monitoring the situation.

Moore, meanwhile, said he will visit the site today and speak with the protesters.

“I don’t believe in confrontation. I want to listen to them, hear them out and take it from there,” he said.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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