Members of a western Manitoba aboriginal community are peacefully protesting work on the Bipole III hydroelectric line, a project that requires the construction of a transmission line, two new converter stations and two ground electrodes for those stations.

Sapotaweyak Cree Nation

Construction signs around N4 on Sapotaweyak Cree Nation.

That construction will involve clear-cutting trees near Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, located north of Swan River in central Manitoba. 

Chief Nelson Genaille says the project  will destroy their livelihood and way of life.

"They use the land as they did before. Living off the land with the animals. You know using the medicines from natural Mother Earth. And even the water systems. All of that habitat is going to be impacted."

On Saturday, members of the community set up two blockades along Highway 10 to prevent access for workers who are scheduled to cut down trees, and they ignited a sacred fire in the clear-cutting path.

"As chief of the community I have exhausted all avenues meeting with ministers and basically getting the run around."

A judge denied the First Nation's request for an injunction to stop construction in an area known to the community as N4, until the province properly consulted with the community in January.

The area includes Sapotaweyak Cree Nation's ancestral lands and traditional territory, which includes burial and spiritual sites sacred to the community.

Chief Nelson Genaille says RCMP spoke briefly with him and allowed the peaceful protest to continue. 

“Our people are now standing up for their rights and interests,” Genaille said. 

“I have exhausted the diplomatic and legal routes to voice our concerns against this project. And regrettably, the responsible Manitoba ministers and Manitoba Hydro bigwigs did not take our concerns seriously." 

A spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro says workers are going into areas where they can access the site. Scott Powell says Hydro is trying to reach the leadership of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation to talk. 

The Canadian Press