A group claiming to speak for Quebec indigenous communities is putting great effort into sullying Hydro-Quebec’s sustainable development approach. Mainers deserve to know all the facts about this group, and about Hydro-Quebec’s relationship with First Nations in Quebec.
The North American Megadams Resistance Alliance is a group with no footing in Quebec, and with no formal ties with First Nations in our province. It is using grievances from First Nations in two Canadian locations — neither of which is in Quebec — regarding facilities that do not belong to Hydro-Quebec in an attempt to sully the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Let’s be clear: the power that would flow over the clean energy power line is 100 percent tracked hydropower from Quebec. It doesn’t come from anywhere else.
The alliance’s attempts to tie Quebec’s First Nations into their efforts have resulted in requests for it to stop speaking illegitimately in their name. For example, a representative of the Pessamit Band Council on Quebec’s northern coast, Louis Archambault, wrote to the group’s director, Meg Sheehan — who is a lawyer from New Hampshire and not a representative of a Canadian Indigenous community. Hydro-Quebec was copied on this email.
“We … are concerned by some statements made by NAMRA on behalf of Pessamit,” Archambault wrote. “We would like you to cease referring to statements made by Chief [Rene] Simon … These comments were made in a different context and our relationship with Hydro-Quebec has evolved significantly since then.
“We believe that it is our sole responsibility of representing our community with the nuances related to the actual context,” he added.
This information has not been shared by the alliance nor has it been mentioned in recent news articles. The authors of that letter have clearly indicated to them that they should stop including references to their community in their hateful messaging. In this context, I strongly believe that Archambault’s request is meaningful and newsworthy.
The North American Megadams Resistance Alliance — a group that has no representation within Quebec Indigenous groups — has objectives that are suspiciously commercial: stopping transmission projects between a vast clean energy network in Quebec and American markets. Its link for funding contributions goes to an address in New York, not to a Canadian indigenous group. The group is carrying out clear lobbying efforts — and spending money — in a state where a citizen’s initiative, aimed at stopping a transmission line to carry electricity from Quebec to Maine and Massachusetts, is gearing up.
Concerning Hydro-Quebec’s relationships with First Nations in Quebec, to be sure it’s not a perfect relationship; issues are complex and some are difficult to resolve. There are 11 indigenous nations, in 55 communities, living in Quebec. Each has its own culture and lifestyle. However, there have been improvements and strengthening of these relationships as a result of committed and visionary individuals, indigenous and non-indigenous, working together for sustainable development and lasting partnerships.
There have been 40 agreements signed with indigenous communities over 40 years. Those aren’t empty numbers. These agreements are meaningful, and through them, the indigenous communities have become active partners in the clean energy projects.
The group’s accusations only serve to harm the pursuit of regional collaborative efforts to fight climate change, such as the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Additionally, in the American Northeast’s current energy landscape, smearing Quebec hydro opens the door to more fossil fuels. Could that be the group’s goal? If so, it’s a tough one to understand.
Lynn St-Laurent is a spokesperson for Hydro-Quebec.