Friday, 23 December 2011

Romeo Saganash in the 'Peg Part VI: Hydro's flooding of First Nations

Note: This is the sixth installment in a series of posts on Romeo Saganash's Dec. 16, 2011 Town Hall in Winnipeg. A list of prior installments can be found on the series section of this site under the heading "Romeo Saganash in the 'Peg".

 Romeo Saganash: Leadership contender
Image Source:

The next audience member who had the floor grew up in on a Manitoba First Nations community*. The person asking the question looked like they were somewhere in there 20s, maybe early 30s. They spoke of how Manitoba Hydro flooded their community in the process of hydroelectric development without compensation or any form of wealth-sharing. The man went on to ask how First Nations could go about ensuring their voices are heard and their rights and needs met in cases like these.

Romeo Saganash answered by elaborating on how aboriginal rights recognition has developed in huge ways over the last 20 years. A legal base for recognizing aboriginal rights already exists, the Quebec Cree Lawyer enthusiastically stated.

Lake St. Martin First Nations Protest (in Spring
of this Year, during the Assinboine River Flood)
Not over Hydro electric development, as with
with the questioner's grievance, but over the unlivable
conditions of many homes in the community. Things got worst after
the controlled breach, so bad that the community had to relocate to
various Winnipeg hotels.
In mid-February of 2012, said community will finally get permanent homes.
The struggles of Lake St. Martin First Nation aptly illustrate why
Canada needs to move forward on aboriginal rights.

Image Source: CBC News


The leadership contender went on to say that if we want sustainable and equitable economic development on First Nations communities, then activists need to be united. Both united against bad ideas and united for good ones.

Saganash once again went back to the relevance of negotiation. It took many years to negotiate an indigenous peoples self-determination and lands right clause in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, something he had first hand experience with. Though Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand all voted against the Declaration, good negotiation eventually persuaded them to sign on.

The Cree lawyer then went on to detail his vision of a just approach to First Nations economic development. This development should be done with free, prior, and informed consent from the community. It's a major injustice when Hydro developers announce a project too late and with no consent from community stakeholders.

Saganash proudly announced how mutual respect, cooperation, and partnership where key pillars of the UN Declaration. More audience questions came, which shall be the subject of future installments in this series.


*The specific community escapes my memory.

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