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Why Tataskweyak Cree Nation is taking the province to court

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A First Nation is taking the province to court saying its treaty rights are being impacted by a licence the province issued to Manitoba Hydro.

Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN) says it wasn't fairly consulted when the province was granting a full water power licence to Manitoba Hydro's Churchill River Diversion.

“Tataskweyak raised all sorts of concerns about the diversion and wish to see terms and conditions added to the licence that would reduce the impacts on the Churchill River and on Tataskweyak,” TCN’s lawyer Tim Dickson said in an interview with CTV News.

TCN says the diversion is causing environmental harm - and wants the flow of Churchill River to increase from 500 cubic feet per second to 10,000 in the summer.

TCN says the low flow is impacting the sturgeon population, impacting their treaty rights. Dickson says there are also flooding concerns.

“And so this litigation is challenging Manitoba's decision, saying it didn't listen to Tataskweyak; it didn't come and engage with it and that has to be done again."

The diversion has been functional since the '70s - operating on an interim water power licence. In 2009 - the province began consultations with first nations that are impacted by this diversion - including TCN - as it worked to issue a full licence to hydro. That licence was issued in 2021, including flow rates TCN opposes.

A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Minister Kevin Klein said in an email, "As this matter is currently before the court, it would be inappropriate for the Environment and Climate Minister to comment."

On Tuesday, in the Court of King’s bench, TCN was asking Chief Justice Glenn Joyal to have the province release currently-redacted consultation documents from other First Nations involved in the diversion licensing, allowing TCN’s representatives to learn more about consolations with those communities.

Lawyers for the province said the redactions are standard practice - saying they often keep things like traditional Indigenous knowledge confidential if shared during consultation processes.

Joyal's decision on this will come in roughly three weeks.

TCN and the province are expected to return to court this fall.

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