Manitoba Hydro evicted from northern dam station

Protesters have forced employees of Manitoba Hydro out of the Jenpeg generating station in northern Manitoba.
A protester stands with an oversized eviction notice for Manitoba Hydro. (Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg/Facebook)

Protesters have forced employees of Manitoba Hydro out of the Jenpeg generating station in northern Manitoba.

The protesters, from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, delivered an oversized evicted notice on Friday to staff at the station and the employee housing complex, both of which are located on the Nelson River in Pimicikamak territory.

"The building is empty, locked, undamaged and under the Pimicikamak flag," states a release from the Cree Nation, which is located approximately 525 kilometres by air north of Winnipeg.

The project has turned a oncebountiful and intimately know homeland into a dangerous and despoiled power corridor.- Chief Cathy Merrick on the Jenpeg generating station

A few hydro personnel remain inside the dam itself to monitor the facility. Pimicikamak guarantees the safety and well-being of these people, and ensures that hydro facilities will not be damaged."

The protesters want compensation for damages caused by flooding from the dam, which opened in 1979.

Protesters set up around a campfire near the Jenpeg generating station as part of their occupation at the site. (Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg/Facebook)
"The hydro system floods 65 square kilometres of Pimicikamak land and causes severe damage to thousands of kilometres of shoreline," Chief Cathy Merrick stated in the press release. "Outlying grave sites have been washed away; Pimicikamak people have died as a result of semi-submerged debris from eroding shorelines and unsafe ice conditions caused by hydro.

"The project has turned a once bountiful and intimately known homeland into a dangerous and despoiled power corridor."

Jenpeg, which Manitoba Hydro uses to control outflows from Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River system, is located about 20 kilometres from Cross Lake, which is the main Pimicikamak settlement with some 8,000 residents.

“This is our home; we will not let it be trampled,” said Merrick. “This dam has been great for the south but for us it is a man-made catastrophe. Hydro needs to clean up the mess it has created in our homeland. Hydro needs to treat us fairly.”

She said the provincial government has spoken about reconciliation with all hydro-affected peoples, and a “new era” of “partnership” but so far none of that has happened.

The hydro system produces $3.8 million worth of power on its five Nelson River dams every day, according to Merrick, who noted it "has not contributed to 'the eradication of mass poverty and mass unemployment' as was contemplated in the 1977 Northern Flood Agreement.

"The NFA says affected people will be dealt with fairly and equitably," she said, adding, "In many parts of Canada, governments and companies are realizing that everyone benefits when the tremendous wealth and opportunity of the land is shared fairly."

Pimicikamak's road map to positive change includes:

  • A public apology from Premier Greg Selinger for past and present harms suffered​ by all hydro-affected peoples and their lands.
  • A commitment from Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro to engage in a good-faith process to fulfill promises in the NFA, including measures related to community development, environmental mitigation and maximum employment opportunities.
  • A revenue sharing agreement and/or water rental arrangement with Pimicikamak.

"​The Pimicikamak people will not leave Jenpeg until Manitoba and Hydro make substantive commitments to follow the course outlined above," Merrick said.

The chief and council will be meeting with provincial and hydro officials at the Jenpeg station on Friday.

Chief Cathy Merrick addresses crowd at Jenpeg