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Letter to the Editor: Hydro-Quebec and its relations with First Nations: Inflammatory titles are unwarranted and misguided

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Many Aboriginal communities in Quebec live in areas with hydroelectric installations. Hydro-Quebec's liaison teams are made up of employees who work closely with these communities. Team members have friends and family among the First Nations; many have chosen to strengthen their knowledge of Aboriginal history and culture through postgraduate studies; and all work very hard towards the signing of meaningful agreements and maintaining positive and satisfying relationships with the community.

Chloe Grant’s opinion piece published here is nothing short of offensive. It questions whether the employees of Hydro-Quebec who have contributed to the signing of some thirty agreements with First Nations over the past decades are working for a criminal organization. Through these agreements, the Aboriginal communities become active partners in the projects: They take part in environmental follow-up programs, have the means to carry on with traditional activities, and benefit from economic spinoffs.

There are 11 Aboriginal nations, in 55 communities, living in Quebec. Each has its own culture and lifestyle. Are some issues complex and more difficult to resolve in certain areas? Undoubtedly. However, Hydro-Quebec’s work with First Nations, including the Pessamit Innu, continues on various projects.

Slanderous titles only serve to harm the pursuit of collaborative efforts on both sides. Moreover, ignorance serves no one. Grant’s piece contains more than 20 errors, distortions and inaccuracies. Let’s clear a few things up.

The Northern Pass project is a projected 320-kV direct-current transmission line that will be extended into the U.S.A. from the Des Cantons substation in Val-Joli, near the U.S. border. Grant indicates that the line will run from a dam on the Betsiamites river. That’s about 600 km off the mark, and hydroelectricity is produced by a generating station, not a dam. Moreover, additional clean energy exports to the United States, through Northern Pass or any other existing or projected line, will have no impact on the Betsiamites River or the Innu Community of Pessamit. The clean energy transmitted to our neighbors to the south comes from the entire grid, not any particular region or generating station.

It’s important to note that our exports to American markets also benefit the Pessamit Community. Part of the energy produced by the Bersimis-1 and 2 generating stations located on the Betsiamites River belongs to the Innu. As per our agreement with the Pessamit Innu, a share of the proceeds from our sales on American markets is returned to them.

In regards to the Betsiamites River and the salmon population, Hydro-Quebec is a responsible power utility that operates its 62 generating stations in accordance with all laws, regulations and permits in effect. Hydro-Quebec strictly abides by the operating rules of generating stations on the Betsiamites, which were drawn up in collaboration with and approved by the community of Pessamit.

Hydro-Quebec, working with the community of Pessamit, carried out a salmon restoration program in the Betsiamites, with impressive results. In fact, a committee of independent experts recognized that the program enabled significantly higher salmon returns and underscored how important it was for the community of Pessamit to follow a fishing plan to ensure the long-term maintenance of a salmon population in the river.

Finally, Hydropower generates the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of all generation methods. Hydro-Quebec’s exports displace fossil fuel power generation in markets outside Quebec, thereby extending the benefits of its clean energy to them. Last year, our net power exports helped avoid close to 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent—as much as the emissions from 1,750,000 vehicles.

Lynn St-Laurent

Spokesperson

Hydro-Quebec Public Affairs and Media Relations

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