Deal struck between 4 First Nations and Manitoba Hydro to end blockades

An agreement has been reached between four First Nations and Manitoba Hydro after blockades were set up at the Keeyask Generating Station out of fears of spreading COVID-19, according to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).

The advocacy organization MKO says a partnership was reached Saturday between Manitoba Hydro and Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation and York Factory Cree Nation after they were concerned that rotating workers at the site would spread the novel coronavirus to northern communities.

“It is imperative that corporations working in our territory are full partners and in agreement with plans to open up the North — the First Nations had made it clear for weeks that they were not in agreement with the plans made for the Keeyask project. Their ultimate concern was in protecting their communities from the threat of COVID-19,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a statement.

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READ MORE: Indigenous group continues blockade over COVID 19 concerns in northern Manitoba

MKO says the agreement made between the Chiefs and Manitoba Hydro includes the removal of blockades and the lifting the injunction against Tataskweyak Cree Nation that was issued last Monday. 

“We have asked Manitoba Hydro to work with us in a better way to move forward with the project,” Chief Doreen Spence of Tataskweyak Cree Nation said in a statement. “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. 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.”

READ MORE: Manitoba Hydro scaling back work, cancelling travel at Keeyask site to fight COVID-19 spread

Manitoba Hydro scaled back its work and suspended travel in and out of the construction site in mid-March.

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Global News reached out to the Crown corporation for comment but has yet to hear back.

The Keeyask Project is a collaborative effort between the utility and four First Nations: Tataskweyak Cree Nation and War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation.

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The 695-megawatt generating station is located around 725 kilometres north of Winnipeg on the lower Nelson River.

It’s currently scheduled to be completed by 2021.

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