Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Atikamekw disillusioned by Ottawa's decision to appeal ruling on 1918 flooding

The First Nation reserve of Opitciwan, 615 kilometres north of Montreal. Dario Ayala / The Gazette
 Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette:

   The chief of Opitciwan’s Atikamekw nation backed Justin Trudeau’s Liberals because he believed they would fundamentally change the relationship between Canada and its indigenous people. Awashish says he now regrets that decision.
    Last month, the federal government appealed a tribunal ruling that would have awarded millions to the Atikamekw in Opitciwan — a First Nations reserve on the shores of the Gouin Reservoir, an immense man-made lake at the source of the St-Maurice River, about 615 kilometres north of Montreal.
   The legal decision could have granted the impoverished First Nation of 2,000 residents up to $150 million in compensation for flooding, contaminated drinking water and other damage caused by the creation of La Loutre dam in 1918.
   The development of hydro power in the region in the early 20th century flooded the original Atikamekw village of Opitciwan and ruined the band’s immense trapping grounds.
   Now, instead of reaping the benefits of a victory that was a century in the making, the Opitciwan band council will have to continue a legal battle that Awashish says it simply can’t afford.
   “I lost all confidence in what I believed, in the thought that the Liberal party could change things,” Awashish told the Montreal Gazette. “You get a new party in power, but the same old tactics are used against us.”...

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