First Nations forge hydroelectric dam deal with AXOR

Three First Nations in northwestern Ontario will allow Quebec-based AXOR Group to build two more hydroelectric dams on their traditional territory, after several years of negotiations.

Three First Nations in northwestern Ontario will allow Quebec-based AXOR Group to build two more hydroelectric dams on their traditional territory after several years of negotiations.

The director of lands and resources for Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek, Jordan Hatton, said construction of more dams has been less controversial than construction of an earlier dam on the Namewaminikan River.

Hatton said AXOR now realizes why the land is so important to the people who live there.

"You have to build that trust," he said. "The trust takes a long time. Once that was realized, they were a lot more willing to see our side of things and we were able to put together a more beneficial agreement in place after that."

The other First Nations supporting the project are Animbiigoo Zaagi'igan Anishinabek, and Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek. All three communities are members of Waaskonassay Energy Ltd., a legal entity organized for the purpose of making commercial agreements.

The new dam will have some negative effects, Hatton admitted, but said he is happy with how AXOR promises to deal with them.

According to the impact management and benefit agreement, aboriginal monitors will be allowed on the dam site during construction to make sure sacred sites are not damaged.

The press release announcing the agreement states that it recognizes "the First Nations' stewardship of the land, their duty to act to safeguard their spiritual and cultural values, and the need to increase the skills and abilities of their members and create opportunities for increasing the communal wealth of their First Nations."

The 10 megawatt waterpower project, scheduled to begin later this year, involves two dams on the Namewaminikan River (also known as the Sturgeon River) at Twin Falls and Long Rapids.

To hear to a documentary about the controversy surrounding the first dam built on the Namewaminkan River listen to this episode of CBC's Tapestry.