Manitoba Hydro, a crown corporation, flooded and destroyed the land at O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation/South Indian Lake in 1974 when they diverted the Churchill River to generate hydroelectric power. This flooding was called the Churchill River Diversion Project (CRD). The CRD was contentious, and alternatives were ignored by the Government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro.
In doing so, they caused immeasurable environmental devastation to the lands, rivers, and lakes- destroying entire ecosystems and polluting aquatic and non-aquatic wildlife. The socio-economic effects of this mass destruction in the name of “progress” have been incalculable to the community and are still felt today.
In 1973, Manitoba Hydro was granted an Interim Licence that allowed water fluctuations of 2 feet over a twelve-month period, much like fluctuations in nature. Manitoba Hydro has not followed the terms of the Interim Licence since 1979!
Manitoba Hydro has deviated from the Interim Licence, called the Augmented Flow Program (AFP), which allows 6 additional inches of flooding, 1 foot of further dewatering, and 4.5 feet of lake fluctuation. A fluctuation as great as this is devastating on an ecosystem, let alone communities that have lived on these lands and waters for generations before hydro development existed. The map below demonstrates how this licence will allow for the permanent re-routing of the Churchill River, which will impact watersheds, flood land and contribute to the continual exploitation of water for cheap electricity for Southern Manitobans through dam and hydro development.
On May 12th, 2021, the Manitoba government unilaterally decided to provide Manitoba Hydro a permanent licence for the Churchill River Diversion project, including the Augmented Flow Program, Jenpeg Generating Station and Lake Winnipeg Regulation without engaging in meaningful consultation with affected communities or conducting proper environmental assessments. This was done despite claiming “decade-long consultation” in their public statement.
The province’s news release can be viewed here.
If you would like to learn more about the Augmented Flow Program and Churchill River Diversion’s impacts on Indigenous territories and communities, please consider visiting Wa Ni Ska Tan’s website.
To take action, please consider signing this petition, started by Angela Levasseur, member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House), whose community is also impacted by hydro development and the Churchill River Diversion. The petition has almost 55,000 signatures already, and aims to get to 75,000 to help in the next steps being taken to hold Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba government accountable for these actions.
To donate to the ongoing legal efforts, please visit the GoFundMe page here.
For more information, please visit these campaign-specific pages:
–Environmental Justice for the Cree Nation
–Wa Ni Ska Tan: Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities
Written by Dilaxshy Sivagurunathan, edited by Rebecca Kingdon
Video by Michael Tyas for Wa Ni Ska Tan