Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington


Innu photo #2SD: Are the Innu people divided over the Plan Nord or are they speaking with one voice on the project?

EV: The Innu people are very divided. There are people who are very much against it and are trying to keep the territory intact for future generations. There are other people who are willing to consider it for a certain price. And then there are other people who are very much in favor of it because of the development it will bring. The tribal councils are very corrupt. Lots of them have said they're against Plan Nord but then went and signed with various companies to go ahead with the construction. When we asked where the money went [from those contracts], they've said, "Oh, we don't have any more money." So, we are very curious where the money has disappeared to.

SD: What kind of destruction has already taken place as a result of Hydro-Quebec's work?

EV: The pylons that they put in for the dam have already made animals disappear and run away. They have cleared the land. We did a march along the river and we noticed both how beautiful it is and how much has been destroyed. Why would they want to destroy this beautiful land?

SD: Obviously, Vermonters cannot vote or have much influence over the Canadian or provincial government. What do you hope Vermonters can do to help further your cause?

EV: Whether it's in Canada or the United States or Europe, we want people to preserve the environment for future generations. People need to wake up and see what's going on and take care of the land for their children and grandchildren — and ours.

SD: Talk about the significance of this area. Are there sacred areas that will be destroyed?

EV: The whole land is in danger. You cannot live as an Innu if the land is destroyed. That's why we're fighting this fight. Our way of life is connected to the land.

Elyse.blockadeSD: How do the non-indigenous Québecois feel about this project?

EV: We walked from Mani-Utenam to Montréal and we encountered a lot of Québecois who are against the Plan Nord and want to preserve the environment, whether it's in our land or in the city.

SD: Is the Charest government's position different from the previous government's?

EV: Charest has gone to Europe and elsewhere and said that the Innu were for the Plan Nord. We are circulating a petition to show how many people in our Nation are against it. I feel that — whether it's our Nation, the students in Montreal or other parts of Quebec — Charest is not paying attention to what the people want. 

SD: Do you feel your message will be well-received in Vermont, which receives quite a lot of its electricity from Hydro-Quebec?

EV: Even though some people [in Vermont] might be against what we're saying, I think people will support our desire to protect the land for future generations.

SD: Are you prepared to continue with civil disobedience and perhaps even get arrested to stop the construction from going ahead?

EV: Certainly there will be more civil disobedience because it's the only thing that makes [Hydro-Québec] see us. When we do blockades and speak up, that's when they come and talk to us.

A Community dinner and Alternative Voices presentation highlighting Innu resistance to Hydro-Québec and Plan Nord is scheduled for Sunday, July 29, from 6-9 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington.

Photos courtesy of Will Bennington at Red Clover Climate Justice.