Manitoba

Tataskweyak Cree Nation chief tears up court injunction at Keeyask blockade

Members of the four First Nations that are partners in the Keeyask hydro project stood in solidarity on Wednesday as Tataskweyak Cree Nation Chief Doreen Spence tore up an injunction she was served.

'We need to follow the rule of law and we need to make sure that we respect it': Premier Brian Pallister

A member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation stands at the front of a blockade that formed over the weekend at the entrance to Manitoba Hydro's Keeyask project. (Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak/Facebook)

Members of the four northern Manitoba First Nations that are partners in the Keeyask hydro project stood in solidarity on Wednesday as the chief of Tataskweyak Cree Nation was served an injunction against a blockade, which she promptly tore up.

Chief Doreen Spence "ripped that injunction [and] put it on the ground," Tataskweyak band Coun. Nathan Neckoway said Thursday morning.

"Then the leadership — after the [RCMP] left — we all took a piece of that ripped injunction and put it in the fire.… It was very strong, what our chief did."

A number of Tataskweyak Cree Nation community members who are concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19 started blocking Provincial Road 280 and the north access road to the Manitoba Hydro Keeyask work site on the weekend, in an attempt to stop a worker shift change scheduled for Tuesday.

The shift change was intended to replace about 600 Hydro workers who have been at the site since March with around 1,000 others, including some from outside Manitoba.

WATCH | Clyde Flett's video of blockade supporters speaking with RCMP:

Representatives from four different First Nations were joined by supporters as RCMP delivered an injunction to remove a blockade at Keeyask. 3:37

The Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench issued an injunction on Monday, ordering the blockade be removed and Hydro be granted access to the construction site. The injunction was served on Wednesday by members of the RCMP.

Fox Lake Cree Nation, another partner in the multibillion-dollar Keeyask generating station project, issued a state of emergency and locked down its community Tuesday. Members of Fox Lake also created a blockade on the Keeyask south access road. 

War Lake and York Factory First Nations joined the other two partners as Tataskweyak was served with the injunction at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, Neckoway said.

Representatives from all four First Nations partners in the Keeyask project went to the blockade to show support as the RCMP served an injunction on Wednesday. (Submitted by Nathan Neckoway)

Both Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on the blockades on Thursday.

Although Pallister said he's impressed with the leadership First Nations in Manitoba have shown in keeping COVID-19 out of their communities, he said they need to respect freedom of movement and the advice of Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

Four nearby First Nations are involved in the Keeyask hydro project. They are also involved in blocking the shift change. (Duk Han Lee/CBC)

"We need to follow the rule of law and we need to make sure that we respect it," he said at a press conference late Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Trudeau said earlier that conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous leadership need to "move forward in a way that protects Canadians, but also allows for progressive return to normality."

"Every community needs to make sure they're making decisions to protect their members, but I think there are many ways of going about it," he said.

Trudeau added that all levels of government need to work together toward "keeping Canadians as safe as possible, recognizing certain communities and certain individuals are more vulnerable."

Neckoway says the First Nations will continue to block the roadways into Keeyask.

"We're going to continue. We understand that our message is getting out there," he said. 

"I know that people in northern Manitoba and even other across the country are starting to see the message, and they're encouraging us to continue." 

WATCH | Craig Saunders's video of RCMP delivering the injunction at the blockade:

Representatives from four different First Nations were joined by supporters as RCMP delivered an injunction to remove a blockade at Keeyask. 3:08

With files from Sam Samson and Nicholas Frew

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