Keeyask blockades coming down as Cree Nations reach agreement with Manitoba Hydro
WINNIPEG -- Blockades put up to stop Manitoba Hydro construction workers from entering the Keeyask hydroelectric project are being taken down.
In a press release Sunday, the First Nations in charge of the lockdown said they had reached an agreement with Manitoba Hydro and would be taking down blockades.
The Chiefs of the four Cree Nations met with Manitoba Hydro's President and CEO, Jay Grewal, on Saturday.
The Chiefs and Manitoba Hydro made an agreement where the blockades would be removed if the company lifted the injunction against the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, moved towards implementing the project plan for Keeyask and scheduled an in-person meeting with the leadership of the four Cree Nations.
FORMATION OF BLOCKADES
Manitoba Hydro had planned to carry out a shift transition starting on May 19, bringing around 1000 employees to the site.
Though the company worked with provincial health authorities to create the shift change plan, nearby First Nations were still worried that the workers would bring COVId-19 to the northern communities.
The longest-running blockade, outside of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, was set up for ten days. Chief Doreen Spence was served with an injunction on May 20.
"First Nations, like other Manitobans, have made many sacrifices to restrict the transmission of COVID-19. While we absolutely want our economies to open up and succeed, we are ultimately most concerned about the well-being and health of our citizens during this uncertain period," said Tataskweyak Chief Doreen Spence in the release.
"We want to keep everyone safe from this virus. We look forward to working as full partners throughout the completion and operation of this project."
In the press release, several Chiefs from Manitoba First Nations expressed they were looking forward to working with Manitoba Hydro and stressed that direct communication was vital to solving problems.
“Manitoba Hydro must work with First Nations for the best interests of the health and well-being of the people in Northern Manitoba," said Chief Billy Beardy of the Fox Lake Cree Nation.
“War Lake looks forward to being fully informed and in agreement with the plans for next steps for constructing the Keeyask Generation Station," noted Chief Betsy Kennedy of the War Lake First Nation.
Manitoba Hydro announced it had moved the Keeyask project to a "care and maintenance" status last Thursday.
In a statement to CTV News, a Manitoba Hydro spokesperson said, "Manitoba Hydro is pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with our Keeyask Cree Nation partners that will see construction on Keeyask resume safely, while protecting both workers and the surrounding communities."
The spokeperson also confirmed that the blockades have been removed and Manitoba Hydro will not be renewing its injunction.