A project for sustainable development
The project’s social acceptability depends mainly on the development of a sound agreement with the James Bay Crees and the Jamesian community and on the provincial and federal government approval process.
The signing of the Paix des Braves by the Québec government and the Crees of Québec on February 7, 2002, was a historic step in the development of a new relationship with the James Bay Crees. In this agreement, the Crees agreed in principle to construction of the project, subject to the conditions set out in the Boumhounan Agreement signed the same day. This event was preceded by a referendum held in the Cree communities, which voted 70% in favor of the project.
Hydro-Québec has taken the Cree communities' concerns into consideration at all stages of project design. Cree traditional knowledge was incorporated into the environmental studies through community participation in the field surveys. Throughout the project, the Crees played an active role in the environmental studies and construction work.
In the Agreement concerning a new relationship between the Gouvernement du Québec and the Crees of Québec (also known as the "Paix des Braves"), signed on February 7, 2002, the Crees agreed in principle to construction of the project, subject to the conditions in the Boumhounan Agreement, as well as compliance with applicable legislation and the environmental and social protection regime under section 22 of the Baie James and Northern Québec Agreement.
Details of the project design and construction are covered in the Boumhounan Agreement signed by the Québec Crees, Hydro-Québec and Société d'énergie de la Baie James. The Cree communities of Mistissini, Nemaska, Waskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji and Chisasibi actively participated in the project-related environmental and technical studies through the Cree-Hydro-Québec Feasibility Study Group. Cree traditional knowledge and their knowledge of the land thus played a major role in data collection and interpretation.
Cree-Hydro-Québec Feasibility Study Group
Commonly known as the Boumhounan Committee, the Cree-Hydro-Québec Feasibility Study Group was created in 2002 to circulate project information and promote discussion with the Crees. The Committee participated in the data collection protocols and in the environmental and technical field surveys. Composed of six Cree members and four SEBJ and Hydro-Québec members, the Committee has held 21 meetings and organized more than 25 workshops and information and discussion panels.
Cree-Hydro-Québec Follow-Up Committee
Created under an agreement between the Niskamoon Corporation, Hydro-Québec and the Société d'énergie de la Baie James, the Follow-Up Committee will be continuing the work undertaken by the Boumhounan Committee, whose role was to promote discussion with the Crees during the draft-design phase of the project.
The Follow-Up Committee is made up of members from Hydro-Québec, SEBJ and the Niskamoon Corporation, as well as representatives from the Cree communities of Mistissini, Nemaska, Wemindji, Chisasibi, Waskaganish and Eastmain. The Committee's mandate is to:
Preferred means of communication
The Cree-Hydro-Québec Follow-up Committee used a number of methods to circulate information and encourage discussion, including the following:
The Cree-Hydro-Québec Follow-up Committee meet once a month throughout the project construction phase. The Committee's secretariat will be in the Société d'énergie de la Baie James offices in Montréal.
For information about the Committee and its operations, call 514 286-2020, extension 2022 or write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Baie James territory is defined as the southern portion of the Nord-du-Québec administrative region (Region 10) and follows the administrative boundaries of the Municipality of Baie-James (MBJ). The Jamesian population mainly includes the residents of the four towns encompassed within the MBJ, i.e., Chapais, Chibougamau, Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Matagami, as well as the villages of Radisson, Valcanton and Villebois, and the hamlets of Miquelon and Desmaraisville.
On January 28, 2005, Hydro-Québec signed a partnership agreement with the Municipality of Baie-James concerning the project. Under the agreement, Hydro-Québec contribute nearly $300 million over 50 years to support social, environmental and economic projects in the MBJ. The Jamesian community also benefits from a $10 million development fund, to be disbursed over 5 years for development projects that will be designed and built by the municipality itself.
Signature of the partnership agreement with the MBJ on January 28, 2005
Standing, left to right, are Sam Hamad, then Minister of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Parks, and Jean Charest, Premier of Québec. Seated are Thierry Vandal, then President of Hydro-Québec Production, and Gérald Lemoyne, Mayor of the Municipality of Baie-James.
Several information and discussion panels were held at various stages in the draft-design phase and included discussion on specific topics.
Information and discussion panels (IDP)
Information and discussion panels are Hydro-Québec's preferred means of consulting the public and promoting public participation. Jamesian land users were invited to participate in six IDPs held in Chibougamau through their representatives: municipal and regional elected officials, key players in the economic, recreation and tourism and environmental sectors, and members of government bodies in the Baie James region. The panels enabled Hydro-Québec to record the public's concerns throughout project development. The IDPs also served as a means of circulating the results of the field surveys conducted at each major draft-design stage. The panel format proved to be flexible, efficient, and well-suited to the participants' day-to-day issues.
As is the case for all Hydro-Québec hydroelectric development projects, regional economic spinoffs associated with contracts, goods and services are of major concern to the host region.
Hydro-Québec has committed to renewing the incentive measures implemented for the Eastmain-1 project and adapting them to the Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project. As part of the concerted effort to maximize regional economic spinoffs from Eastmain-1 project, the Nord-du-Québec region set up ComaxNORD with a mandate to support the economy and coordinate the efforts of the region's key players, as well as Hydro Québec and SEBJ.
The project was subject to the environmental assessment processes stipulated in section 22 of the Baie James and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA), Chapter II of the Québec Environment Quality Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
In April 2003, an agreement was signed by the Québec government, the Government of Canada and the Cree Regional Authority to coordinate and harmonize, insofar as possible, the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes for the project. The project was reviewed by both the provincial Review Committee (COMEX), which reports to the Provincial Administrator of the JBNQA, and by the federal Review Panel which reports to the federal Environment Minister.
Main steps in the government approvals process
In addition to the approvals obtained upon completion of the environmental impact assessment, other authorizations were needed before construction could begin, including an order authorizing construction of the planned structures and facilities; this was issued on January 4, 2007, by the Québec government, as required by the Hydro-Québec Act.
During construction, the procedures for enforcing compliance with legislation will continue.
The certificate of authorization issued by the Provincial Administrator of the JBNQA under Chapter II of the Environment Quality Act and section 22 of the JBNQA comes with 97 conditions that Hydro-Québec is required to meet. These conditions essentially reflect the COMEX recommendations which are intended to protect the biophysical and social environments affected by the project.
The permit issued by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under section 35 (2) of the Fisheries Act also imposes several conditions for project construction. These conditions mainly deal with project design and required mitigation and compensation measures, as well as the various follow-up programs that Hydro-Québec must undertake to protect fish habitat.
Furthermore, Hydro-Québec is required to comply with the 70 permits issued by the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in accordance with section 5 (1) of the Navigable Waters Protection Act; these permits stipulate an average of 15 conditions governing navigability and navigation on the various water bodies affected by the project.
In addition to these major authorizations, during the project phase (2007 to 2012), Hydro-Québec will have to obtain about 1,200 sector-related authorizations required under the Environment Quality Act, Forest Act, Mining Act and Dam Safety Act.
Various committees have been set up to monitor the project's environmental impacts. These are joint committees made up of representatives of SEBJ, Hydro-Québec and the Cree community.
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