'The Quebec government is not listening.'

Sanikiluaq continues lonely fight against hydro dams


Sanikiluaq hasn't forgotten that a second massive hydroelectric development is taking shape across the bay on the northern Quebec mainland.

To attract more scientific, public and political attention to the future of Hudson Bay, the Hamlet of Sanikiluaq and the Nunavut Hudson Bay inter-agency working group, Nunavummi Tasiujarjuamiuguqatigiit Katutjiqatijiingtit, want to set up a community-based environmental monitoring network for the Eastern Hudson and James bays.

The monitoring network is the first step towards setting up a larger inter-jurisdictional watchdog group that would also involve Nunavut, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

In late January, Sanikiluaq hosted a workshop on the proposed monitoring system with two participants each from Sanikiluaq, Chisasibi, Whapmagoostui, Kuujjuaraaapik and Inukjuak.

At the workshop, participants shared their knowledge about rivers, currents, sea ice, shorelines, snow, weather and animals and discussed how this kind of information could be recorded, compiled and used to improve decision-making in the region.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Environment Canada, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, and the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments paid for the workshop, which will be followed up next November by a larger meeting for communities from all around the Hudson and James bays, the Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait on the nature, scale and significance of changes in Hudson Bay.

The new hydroelectric project will divert the Eastmain and Rupert rivers and build new dams, reservoirs, a spillway and dikes in the James Bay region.

"It is going to have a drastic effect on the ocean. Just recently, the water was spilling over on to the ice and flooding it," Sanikiluaq's MLA Peter Kattuk said in the Nunavut legislature on Feb 28. "We are concerned about the merging of those two rivers because it has had a drastic effect on the sea ice."

But Quebec doesn't appear to care about the impact of the Eastmain and Rupert project on the Belcher Islands and the Hudson Bay ecosystem, Kattuk said.

"We're concerned about the Quebec government when they're saying it has no effect on any other jurisdiction," Kattuk said. "The Quebec government is not listening to the concerns of the people from the Hudson Bay area."

But Sanikiluaq does not intend to give up without a fight.

A 2006 federal-provincial review assessment of Eastman and Rupert project recommended that the environmental consequences of the project should be closely monitored, with the involvement of aboriginal communities that will be affected.

The panel said an independent body, with representatives from several jurisdictions, including the federal government, Quebec, Ont­ario, Manitoba and Nunavut, and aboriginal groups, could be responsible for this monitoring program.

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