Many Hydro-Québec facilities and installations are built on land frequently used by members of Indigenous communities. Hydro-Québec has signed agreements with these communities to obtain their participation in certain projects or to develop and maintain good relations with them.
Three Indigenous nations in Québec (the Crees, the Inuit and the Naskapi) have signed comprehensive land claim agreements, or “modern treaties”, the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (1975) and the Northeastern Québec Agreement (1978).
Subsequent to these two agreements, we signed some twenty different agreements with the Crees about particular projects. These include the Boumhounan Agreement, which provides for direct Cree participation in studies and work on the Eastmain-1-A powerhouse (renamed the Bernard-Landry generating station in 2016) and Rupert diversion, from the preliminary project stages to commissioning. Members of six Cree communities continue to take part in the environmental studies related to Hydro-Québec facilities.
The agreements between Hydro-Québec and the Indigenous communities are not land claim agreements (agreements on land rights or rights to natural resources), which are the jurisdiction of the federal and provincial governments.
We seek to obtain a favorable reception for development projects from affected Indigenous communities. This is why we have signed impact and benefit agreements with a number of Indigenous communities.
We have, in fact, signed dozens of agreements of this type since 1975. These differ depending on the project and the circumstances of the communities concerned and contain different provisions. The agreements may call for Hydro-Québec to pay financial compensation to communities affected, promote the awarding of contracts to Indigenous companies or provide for environmental measures. Different funds established under these agreements are used to promote Indigenous cultures and traditional lifestyles as well as to cover costs of training, mitigate project impacts and support community and economic development. In this way, Indigenous communities become stakeholders in the projects.
Our goal is always the same: to forge lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships that respect the culture and values of all parties. Here are two examples of our partnerships:
A transmission facilities agreement
The Hydro-Québec–Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Agreement, signed in 2015 in connection with construction of the 400-km transmission line running from Chamouchouane substation in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region to the greater Montréal area, calls for payment of sums to be used for economic and community development and to fund traditional activities. The Atikamekw have also obtained clearing contracts and are taking part in a joint follow-up committee.
A supplementary agreement for the Romaine complex
In June 2021, Hydro-Québec and the Ekuanitshit Innu signed the Nashkuaikan Agreement. This agreement addresses the concerns of the community of Ekuanitshit about changes to the Romaine complex and improves certain elements of the Nishipiminan Agreement, signed in 2009 in connection with the project. The new agreement provides, among other things, for the following:
- A $57.6 million fund to finance community initiatives over a 50-year period
- Activities to help Hydro-Québec workers in Minganie learn about Innu culture
- Measures to promote awarding of contracts for construction and operation of the Romaine complex to Innu companies from the community of Ekuanitshit
- Start of discussions on a pilot project for energy-efficient buildings in Ekuanitshit