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PRESS RELEASE NO.
Groups Describe Hydroelectric Damage to Northern Communities
Asked to Support Aboriginal People in Quest for Self-Sustainability
WINNIPEG, Canada, 29 July
2003 – When
massive hydroelectric power plants were constructed in northern
Manitoba, Canada’s central province, during the 1960s and 1970s,
they brought more electricity to the general public but at great
cost to the native people of the area.
Huge dams built along the
great Churchill River diverted water where Nature never intended it
to go. Native communities were flooded. Hunting and trapping grounds
were damaged. Debris from flooded timber littered the shorelines and
made boat navigation unsafe. Mercury poisoned the fish, ancestral
sites were destroyed and the quality of the water itself was
All of this happened
without proper consultation with the native people whose traditional
lands were affected, aboriginal groups maintain.
"The government came
and built, and after that they said we will talk," said Victor
Spence, development manager with the Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN)
of Split Lake in north-central Manitoba.
Today, however, native
groups say they are determined to be masters of their own fate
concerning future hydroelectric developments in the region.
That was the message a TCN
delegation brought to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth
Assembly in Winnipeg on July 29.
"We are here today to
have understanding of what our goals and aspirations are in the
community of Split Lake," Chief Norman Flett said.
what we ask for. Listen to what we have to say and judge for
yourselves what will benefit our community."
In a PowerPoint
presentation, the TCN delegation outlined how they and other
similarly-affected native groups dealt with the federal and
provincial governments, and Manitoba Hydro, the province’s
publicly-owned electric utility, to ensure better treatment.
Since 1977, native groups
have negotiated agreements with governments and Hydro for remedial,
compensation and development measures related to flood damage.
TCN and Hydro together
assessed the damage caused by electrical power developments and
worked toward developing better models for dam projects.
TCN, a Cree community of
2,600 people, insisted that its consent by referendum would be
necessary for future electrical projects on its traditional lands to
proceed. Such projects must have social, economic and cultural
benefits for native peoples, TCN stated.
"This is totally
different from the 1970s era," Spence said.
Primarily members of the
Anglican Church of Canada, TCN people claim support from Lutheran
and other Canadian churches in determining their own social and
"If Aboriginal people are to realize their aspirations as peoples and nations,
they must be architects of their own future, freely and
responsibly," said a 1987 pastoral statement by leaders of the
Christian Churches on Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian
The TCN delegation said
the LWF could help them by speaking out for aboriginal rights and
assisting native groups in their journey toward self-determination
and spiritual healing.
"We will determine
what will benefit our community," said Flett. "Things have
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
To order photographs, please contact
Assembly Home] [Links]