Tuesday 9 February 2010

Manitoba Hydro: the golden beaver - updated

Trappers suing for $64M. Say Hydro, province took away livelihood

Will $64 million help? I know it would help me. It would help me to buy a new gullwing AMG Mercedes SLS, for example. But, the question is: will it help the trappers in Chemawawin? First, the history:

In 1968, Hydro builds a damn, and floods 500,000 acres of land -- "one of the best wildlife areas in North America" according to the lawyer that the band hired. Prior to building the damn, Hydro, attempting to do the right thing one would suppose, negotiates with the affected community and moves them to a new location, giving them roads, schools, running water and electricity for the first time. While you might think that this would lead to an improved standard of living, alcohol abuse took hold of the community "as it became clear the new site, built on bedrock, was no good for traditional trapping, hunting and agricultural practices." There is cause-and-effect implied in that statement that I am not convinced is true. Many other communities got plagued with alcohol abuse, without any drastic change in their trap lines to blame it on. But in any case, many years later in 1990 Hydro paid $13.7 mil to Chemawawin to compensate for the "outstanding effects of the damn."

End of story? Hell no ... Another 18 years later, a group of trappers from the community are going after Hydro for $64 million in lost income. This is for "as many as" 118 trappers or descedants, suffering a 50% drop in their standard of living (I guess running water and electricity don't count). That's over half a million dollars for each of the 118 people.

Sanity check time: $64 million works out to over $1.5 million per year since the damn opened. If this represents a 50% decrease in their revenues from trapping, then that implies that the total value of their trapping, had that revenue not been lost, would have been over $3 million per year -- more than the value of all wild fur produced in the province each year by over 7000 trappers, according to the Manitoba Trappers Association.

Now, I'm not saying the trappers in Chemawawin are not 428.5 times better at trapping than everybody else, or that their former land wasn't that much better. I just find it hard to believe, is all. The cynic in me is thinking that this is one last money grab before the trappers in question get too dead or forgetful to recall the glory days of catching 500 muskrats a week.


I wrote in the comments of a recent post by David Watson that, while in general racial tensions have largely decreased in Canada, they seem to be growing larger with respect to the First Nations. There is increasing frustration among many Native leaders and groups that they are not being properly compesated for past wrongs, and continue to be denied the resources that they deserve; and there is increasing frustration among non-Natives that the more the government gives, they more the First Nations demand. There is a sentiment that it is high time they take responsibility for their own state of affairs -- a sentiment that grows each time an unreasonable demand like this is made. As the demands get bigger, the divide grows larger.

*** update: in related news ***

oh geeze, this isn't gonna help with the whole racial tension thing ...

Last week the band council on the Kahnawake reserve, southwest of Montreal, delivered letters to 26 people identified as non-natives living with their Mohawk spouses or partners. The recipients were told they had 10 days to leave.
Ottawa, as all Canadian governments tend to do, is avoiding this like the plague:
"It is important for people to realize that whether I like the decisions or not, these are decisions made by First Nations people on their own land," Mr. Strahl told reporters in Ottawa.
Mr. Delaronde said all the eviction letters were delivered last week. He could not say whether anyone has heeded the notice yet. The band council plans to publish the names of anyone who has not left by next week, he said.


Anonymous said...

We should have killed them all when we invaded, then we wouldn't have these problems.

cherenkov said...

Be nice anon. I don't want people advocating genocide on my blog.

the Stiff Rod said...

Loaded dice dude....up north the Hydro agreement (Northern Flood Agreement) was derisively referred to as the Northern F*ck Agreement but what made this so funny was that it was First Nations and non-First Nations folks saying the same thing.

In terms of the divide, or what I call polarization, yes, it is disturbing in that all we see are the two extremes on each side, natives and non-natives.

There are some that may not agree with what I am about to suggest here but what the hell...REFERENDUM - right across the board. Have the citizens of this country phrase the concerns/questions - perhaps town hall meetings and not bloated Royal Commissions....something that is not one-sided but a process that will force dialogue, air grievances and be done so without fear of repercussion....Hmmmmm?

I apologize because I cannot boil this down but this is something that as a former northerner and as someone who is getting tired of the reverse racism and wasted dollars? I see both sides and am disgusted no matter what side it is I am looking at or from.

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