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Chiefs take off gloves over Hydro line

Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches chairs a press conference Wednesday evening for chiefs of six southern Manitoba First Nations who say they will oppose construction of the Manitoba-Minnesota hydro transmission line.

The chiefs of Long Plain, Brokenhead, Swan Lake, Roseau River, Sandy Bay, and Sagkeeng First Nations came together on Wednesday night. They announced they will use political and legal action to stop construction of the transmission line because of the lack of consultation done by both the Manitoba and federal governments.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches chairs a press conference Wednesday evening for chiefs of six southern Manitoba First Nations who say they will oppose construction of the Manitoba-Minnesota hydro transmission line. The chiefs of Long Plain, Brokenhead, Swan Lake, Roseau River, Sandy Bay, and Sagkeeng First Nations came together on Wednesday night. They announced they will use political and legal action to stop construction of the transmission line because of the lack of consultation done by both the Manitoba and federal governments.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/6/2019 (397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The chiefs of six southern Manitoba First Nations say they will do everything in their power to oppose construction of the multimillion-dollar Manitoba-Minnesota hydro transmission line.

The chiefs of Long Plain, Brokenhead, Swan Lake, Roseau River, Sandy Bay, and Sagkeeng First Nations came together on Wednesday night. They announced they will use political and legal action to stop construction of the transmission line because of the lack of consultation done by both the Manitoba and federal governments.

"We've hit a roadblock with the province of Manitoba and even with Canada in some ways," Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches said.

"(Premier Brian) Pallister has been a difficult premier to work with. He has been working against a lot of Indigenous files. It is probably because of his autocratic style of leadership."

Meeches said the federal government is also to blame because it only recently entered into the consultation process and then unilaterally said the talks were over.

"Both governments probably feel the pressure of impending elections," he said.

"They are hoping to rush it through without taking a look at the concerns we have... they are trying to circumvent the legal process.

"I'm not sure it can be salvaged... we've no other choice than to defend our treaty."

The $453-million transmission line would transmit electrical power to Minnesota and, if needed, back to Manitoba.

Last year, the Pallister government ripped up a $67.5-million tentative deal Manitoba Hydro had made with the Manitoba Metis Federation in exchange for not opposing the project.

The southern First Nations aren't the only Indigenous people upset about transmission line consultations.

A spokeswoman for the Northwest Angle, near Shoal Lake, said Ottawa restarted talks a month ago, over concerns of both land allotments and adverse effects on traditional practices on the community, which is also called Animakee Wa Zhing 37.

Premier Brian Pallister has warned that delaying the project by a year would cost taxpayers $200 million. He met last week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the issue. The deadline for the federal government to make a decision on the project is June 14. 

Federal Trade Minister Jim Carr sat in on the meeting, which he called "constructive." He is optimistic the project will eventually be approved.

"We look to support good projects; we understand that Indigenous consultation is part of what is required," Carr said Wednesday.

Federal Conservatives have raised the hydro project in Parliament multiple times over the past week. On Tuesday, Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen accused Trudeau of "politically interfering and trying to kill yet another Canadian energy project", prompting Speaker Geoff Regan to ask Bergen "to be judicious in her choice of words."

Terry Nelson, a Roseau River band councillor and former chief, said there's a double standard with negotiations between Manitoba and Indigenous people.

"When the province is going to lose money it is rush-rush and when it is us losing money, we wait decades," Nelson said. "How long are we supposed to wait?

"When it comes to our rights and our concerns, the government doesn't give a s---."

Nelson said they will oppose the project any way they can including by launching protests in Minneapolis and dragging Minnesota Power into Manitoba's courts.

— with files from Dylan Robertson

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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History

Updated on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 10:11 AM CDT: fixes typo

1:55 PM: edits sentence

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