MKO & 4 Cree Nations, reach deal to remove Keeyask Blockades

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MKO & 4 Cree Nations, reach deal to remove Keeyask Blockades. MKO, we must protect our community from COVID19

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) along with the four Cree Nations that have entered into a partnership with Manitoba Hydro in the construction and operation of the Keeyask Generating Station in Northern Manitoba. The four First Nations are: Tataskweyak Cree NationFox Lake Cree NationWar Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation.

The four First Nations had installed temporary blockades to the Keeyask Generating Station after talks with the Pallister Government yield little results.

In a letter sent to the Manitoba Premier on May 15, MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee asked for clarification on the provinces COVID-19 travel plans for workers entering the Northern Community.

Excerpts of the letter sent to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

“I am writing to you to request clarification on your government’s position on the Keeyask project. The Public Health Orders issued on April 30, 2020, by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brett Roussin including Prohibiting Travel to Northern Manitoba and Remote Communities and Self-Isolation Order for Persons Entering Manitoba have stipulated who may travel to Northern Manitoba.

Article 2(b) under the Self-Isolation Order identifies that “persons who are engaged in providing vital services in Manitoba including… workers engaged in the construction or maintenance of critical infrastructure.” Can you clarify if the Keeyask project is deemed to have “critical infrastructure” status?

On May 19, MKO Grand Chief Settee asked Prime Minister Trudeau to help navigate the troubled waters with the Provincial Government. In a letter to the Primer Ministers, Grand Chief Settee outlined the many vulnerabilities of the First Nations people to catching COVID-19.

MKO & 4 Cree Nations, reach deal to remove Keeyask Blockades

“Some of the workers come from regions such as Quebec or the United States, where rates of COVID-19 are high. Staff are also being brought in from British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.” said Grand Chief Settee

On May 24, Manitoba Hydro has come to an agreement with the four Cree Nations regarding the Keeyask construction site stated Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “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.

Manitoba Hydro had planned to carry out a shift transition starting on May 19, when 700 employees at Keeyask were to leave the site to return home. Manitoba Hydro had planned to bring in up to 1200 new workers to the site. Staff would come from various parts of Canada and the United States, including regions hit hard by COVID-19 such as Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

The Tataskweyak Cree Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation started blocking access points to the Keeyask construction site. The longest running blockade, outside of Tataskweyak, has been set up for 10 days. Chief Doreen Spence was served with an injunction on May 20, 2020.

The Chiefs of the four Cree Nations met with Manitoba Hydro’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jay Grewal, on May 23, 2020. The agreement made between the Chiefs and Manitoba Hydro includes the removal of blockades, the lifting of the injunction against Tataskweyak Cree Nation, as well as planning exercises, a move towards implementing the project plan for Keeyask, and an in-person meeting between the CEO and the leadership of the four Cree Nations.

“As leaders, we are the protectors of our communities. I commend the Chief and Councillors for stepping up in a major way to protect their people. I am proud to stand with them. I also commend the CEO of Manitoba Hydro for making it a priority to work directly with First Nations leaders. I urge governments and corporations to do their due diligence when it comes to engaging with the First Nations leaders throughout Canada on resource development and other projects. If we are to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, we absolutely must be full partners at the table.”
~MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee

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