Composition (Blue and Green Landscape) © Niap
Our relations with Indigenous nations and communities are not just a commitment: first and foremost, they are the faces of twenty advisors working since 1985 to build ties and maintain good relations with Indigenous communities.
These advisors also follow up on undertakings specified in agreements we have signed and advise Hydro-Québec’s senior management. They are supported by specialists in many different fields, including the social sciences, biology, law and economics.
Customized mitigation and enhancement measures
Hydro-Québec is committed to ensuring that Indigenous communities can practice their traditional activities on the land. All efforts are thus made to involve the communities from the very first stages of a Hydro-Québec project, and to make sure, through environmental monitoring, that necessary measures to this end are applied.
Together with the communities concerned, Hydro-Québec develops mitigation measures not only to foster the practice of traditional activities but also to protect the biophysical environment. Here are some examples:
- The power output downstream of Romaine-1 generating station is adjusted based on the needs of the Atlantic salmon. During the spawning and egg incubation period, for example, an ecological instream flow is maintained to ensure the water level is high enough to protect the nests.
- For the Romaine complex, funds to facilitate land access were awarded to the Indigenous communities that signed the agreement. These funds were used to build and renovate camps, purchase hunting equipment and cover the costs of land and air transportation to the bush. The Innu community of Ekuanitshit now owns its own helicopter airline (Innukoptères).
- In connection with construction of the 735-kV Micoua–Saguenay line, the Innu expressed concerns about woodland caribou and about protecting the area the species uses. Hydro-Québec suggested an experimental measure: a connectivity corridor about 9 km long in an area used by the species. In this area, right-of-way clearing will be kept to a minimum and tower height will be at a maximum, to reduce the number of towers required. Our hope is that conservation of the forest environment will promote woodland caribou presence and limit predators.
A key goal of the employment equity program that we launched in 2009 was to increase the Indigenous workforce. Today, we have more than 300 Indigenous employees, many of them Crees and Inuit. A team dedicated to recruitment and retention of Indigenous labor has been hard at work since 2020 to increase Indigenous representation in the Hydro-Québec workforce even further.
Hydro-Québec has also contributed to the development of Indigenous entrepreneurship and generated significant economic spinoffs for Indigenous communities by awarding work and service contracts to Indigenous firms such as the following:
- Construction Meskano: This Wemotaci Atikamekw firm has been doing road maintenance and repair work and building access roads since 2006.
- Air Inuit: Air Inuit has been transporting Hydro-Québec employees to Baie-James facilities for more than 30 years, under the largest recurring contract awarded to an Indigenous firm.
- Gestion ADC: This Cree company has been providing food and housekeeping services for Hydro-Québec workers in the Baie-James region since 1996.
- Hydro-Québec commissioned the Innu communities of Essipit, Mashteuiatsh and Pessamit to carry out the land use studies for the 735-kV Micoua–Saguenay line project. In addition, an environment committee that includes representatives from all three communities has been formed for the construction phase of this project.
The Société des entreprises innues d’Ekuanitshit (SEIE) provides technical maintenance and catering-janitorial services at the Romaine complex. The Ekuanitshit firm, UANAN Experts Conseil, provides professional services in the field of environment and other areas. It was the Romaine complex that led to the founding of this firm.
Video: Beaver trapping on the site of the future Romaine-2 reservoir (in French only)
In 2020, Hydro-Québec spent a total of $143 million on contracts awarded to Indigenous firms.
In recent years, we have provided financial support for a number of initiatives in Indigenous communities. Here are a few examples:
- Quebec Indigenous science fair
- Wapikoni mobile
- Alloprof Atikamekw
- First Nations Book Fair
- MIAJA, a gathering focused on Anicinabe heritage organized by Minwashin
- Annual conference and business exchange day of the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscaminque Economic Alliance
In 2021, Hydro-Québec added an Indigenous languages and cultures promotion section to its Social Responsibility Directive.
We began acquiring works of art in the early 1960s, the goal to enhance our premises and support contemporary professional artists. Today, we are more aware of the importance of the representation of Indigenous cultures in our collection. In 2018, our collection of about one thousand works included 39 pieces by Indigenous artists. Since then, we have acquired 11 more works by professional Indigenous artists.
We hope our efforts will give a greater voice to professional Indigenous artists and underscore the vitality of their practice.
Here are some examples of the Indigenous works in our collection: