Battle for the Rupert 




Current    Sept'02-Jan'03    Apr'02-Aug'02    Oct '01-Mar' 02

Photo: Woollett Falls, Rupert River

Woollett Falls in the  archipelago

Photo: diversion area of Rupert River

Tributary of the Rupert


    The Rupert River


Cree Nation




Agreement in Principle 

(October draft)


Grand Council of the Cree

Photos: Heb Evans (top), Bill Seeley (bottom)


March 23, 2002

SPEECH TEXT:  Eric Gagnon of Rupert Reverence

                    Faculty of Law, McGill U, March 13

March 10, 2002

Players to join panel discussion

Claude Demers of Hydro-Quebec, Romeo Saganash of Grand Council of the Crees and Eric Gagnon of Rupert Reverence will talk about sustainable development. The discussion will be held at McGill University in Montreal.

James Bay and Sustainable Development

March 13, 12:30

Old Chancellor Day Hall, Faculty of Law

McGill University, Montreal

March 6, 2002

Rupert Reverence steps in where others fear to go

Where are Quebec Nature Federation or any of the other recognized environment groups? Don’t look too hard. They are still on the sidelines. Only Rupert Reverence is at the starting gate.

Environmental issues at single geographic location are won by determined local groups, not the conservative provincial and national groups. It was true of Temagami, it was true of South Moresby and it was true of Adams Mine trash from Toronto. Local people know the land, the players and, most importantly, they possess the key factor crucial to the success of any issue: passion.

The Rupert River issue is playing out the same way. It is natural to think that small communities or out of the way places are populated with the unsophisticated. Yet some of the greatest environmental victories prove otherwise. The difference between the local ones that were won and lost is leadership, local leadership. Now we have a local group in Rupert Reverence prepared to be a leader.

Watching this group is like watching the beginning of any one of these other famous campaigns. They start small, move to a local meeting as happened on February 27 in Chibougamau (which was attended by non-Crees and Crees). Then they set small plans like building membership and producing a newsletter. They move on to bigger, more visible tactics. Rupert Reverence is organizing a protest descent of the river by canoe in July.

The group is also building important bridges with the same established groups that shudder every time they get asked if they are going to take a public stand. Controversy makes them scurry for cover. It shakes up their norm and their traditional donors, many of whom are government agencies. But these groups, or sympathetic individuals within them, will provide valuable advice and contacts to Rupert Reverence. Eventually some will publicly add their support, after the issue gains the respectability that the local group will eventually give it.

But it is the local group that needs your support for success, both in participation and in donations.

Rupert River Descent Protest

Route: Nemaska to Waskaganish

July 20-30, 2002

Register with Robert Bernard (819) 637-7490  

Rupert Reverance

    CP 82

    Chibougamau, Quebec   G8P 2K5

    (418) 748-7747

    Contact: Éric Gagnon

    Membership: $20.00

February 19, 2002

What's next

Construction of the Rupert River diversion will start after an environmental review is conducted jointly by the Cree and Quebec. Bill Namagoose of the Grand Council of the Crees has estimated this could take three years. However, political or economic pressure from Hydro-Quebec or the province could fast track the process. 

Construction of EM-1 reservoir and dam, which is a separate project from the Rupert diversion, is expected to begin this year. It has had environmental approvals for a decade, as part of the La Grande project.

Rupert Reverance, a northern Quebec coalition, is taking the lead among environment groups in fighting the project. It will be holding its first public meeting in Chibougamau tomorrow evening at 7:30 in the Chibougamau city hall. 

In a province where environment groups have a low profile, it is not surprising that a new group, frustrated with the established order, has sprung up and boldly stepped forward. So far, the established groups are still uncertain what to do. Some supported the Crees during the Great Whale campaign and fear they could find themselves opposite the Cree. However, few seem to realize that the Crees get paid, dams or no dams, and have not explored this point.

Rupert Reverance

    CP 82

    Chibougamau, Quebec   G8P 2K5

    (418) 748-7747

    Contact: Éric Gagnon

    Membership: $20.00 

February 12, 2002

River not dead yet

At the signing ceremony in Waskaganish last Thursday, a Cree protester had to be physically removed. Was he working against his people?

If the diversion did not happen, the Crees would still get $3.6 billion dollars. It is not contingent on construction. They do stand to make more if there is construction, particularly through construction jobs, but Crees as individuals can oppose the diversion without jeopardizing the core funds the Crees obtained through the agreement. Will we hear more from the 31 per cent who voted No in the referendum?

Rupert Reverance, a Chibougamau-based environment group, was recently formed to fight the new project. The group, in calling on Quebecers to oppose the project, said, "more than half of the Rupert flows through land which is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Quebec and thus belongs to all Quebecers."

Yesterday a Montreal Gazette editorial said that Quebec's new energy minister, Rita Dionne-Marsolais "told Hydro Quebec that it should not be building new dams." The editorial added that "Quebecers are no longer in favour of untrammeled development." 

In a province where opposition to the James Bay Project is considered an act of treason, and the province's entire coterie of environmentalists can be counted on one hand, there is a ray of hope.

  Diversion Maps:   Overview    In-detail  

  Rupert Agreement

       Final Agreement (PDF file) - February 7, 2002

          Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to read PDF files

                Provided by Grand Council of the Crees

 Eeyou Eenou 

          Grand Council magazine (large PDF files): Dec '02  Feb '02

                     Provided by Grand Council of the Crees  

February 7, 2002

Straight talk

"I spent seven years of my life fighting for other rivers and in the end I end up losing mine," said Bill Namagoose in an interview after the Grand Council voted to accept the agreement. His community is Waskaganish at the mouth of Rupert River and he is executive director of the Grand Council. "For me, it cuts close."

I first met Bill twelve years ago during the height of the Great Whale campaign. As with all the Crees, he struck me with his straight-from-the-heart talk. "It's a tough position to be in, but I believe this is the best deal we could get."

It has only been twenty-five years since this hunter-gatherer society was dragged unwillingly from the land and thrust into our pay-as-you-go merry-go-round. It is still struggling to reconcile the two.

"We have elders who say we cannot own the land, we can only be its stewards." But Bill tries to look ahead. "We are the owners of our land, not the janitors."

"I love the river and I love the land, but I love the people more."

— Brian Back 

February 6, 2002

Whose betrayal?

The Crees have fought with persistence and cunning for 12 years to defend the Great Whale River against one of North America's most environmentally corrupt governments. Their success created an image of an invincible defender of James Bay. Yet tomorrow the Crees will sign a deal with Quebec to divert the Rupert River and expand flooding of their land. What happened to the Great Northern Hope?  


February 5, 2002

Crees to sign Rupert deal

Yesterday the chiefs of the Grand Council of the Cree voted to accept the Rupert agreement with Quebec.  On Thursday, February 7, Grand Chief Ted Moses will ink the deal with Quebec's premier. 

Final results of the Cree referendum show 69 per cent supported the deal. Only one community opposed the deal, Chisasibi, with 52 per cent voting No, and 48 per cent voting Yes. Chisasibi sits on the La Grande River and has been the most negatively affected by the previous dams and diversions.

This was the first referendum ever taken by the Crees. In the past, decisions were made in powwows with talk and consensus. With their population now at 13,000, the Crees have adapted in many ways to new realities.

February 1, 2002

Crees vote overwhelmingly in support of deal

The results of a Cree referendum show support for Quebec's deal between 75 and 80 per cent, according to a Canadian Press (CP) story yesterday.  

Seven of the nine communities have completed their voting. Only Chisasibi and Waskaganish are yet to be heard. The CP story's source said Waskaganish would "strongly support the deal."

The chiefs are expected to meet and decide today on acceptance of the deal, based on the referendum results. It is expected the Grand Council will approve the deal and sign the final agreement with the premier of Quebec on February 7.

Chief Edward Gilpin Jr. of the Eastmain Cree Nation said in the story, "the deal is necessary to jumpstart the economies in all nine communities, which have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country."

January 25, 2002

Crees feel they are pushed too fast

Some Crees believe they are being rushed to make a decision on the hydro deal, reports CBC today. 

"I almost feel betrayed. It's as if the Grand Council is an extension of the Quebec government," said Larry House, councillor at Chisasibi, in the story. 

The signing ceremony is only two weeks away and many Crees are still not sure what is in the agreement.

January 23, 2002

Hydro Quebec offers more money

The deal becomes more irresistible as Hydro Quebec offers the Crees $862 million in additional contracts if it signs the Rupert River agreement, according to a story today in the Montreal Gazette. The extra money would from work offered to Cree businesses for project construction and other services.

The story also reports Chief Matthew Mukash, a vocal critic of the deal, has been quiet on his opposition. 

A schedule has been set to put signatures on paper. The Grand Council will meet at the end of January to ratify the agreement. On February 7, the Crees, Quebec and Hydro Quebec will sign at ceremonies in Montreal and either Waswanipi or Waskaganish.

December 20, 2001

Special Report from The Nation magazine

This special report from inside the Cree communities is a must-read on Cree opinion and the debate over the Rupert deal. The Nation is an award-winning, bi-weekly Cree magazine.

S P E C I A L   R E P O R T

December 19, 2001

Grand Chief Moses Quebec's hero

Actualité Magazine has listed Teddy Moses as one of its Personalities of the Year. The Crees have long fought hydro-electric development on their land, but yesterday Moses spoke at a luncheon of the Quebec Electrical Industry Association. The Crees have long avoided this group as it represents those who have profited by the dam building and flooding. The Montreal Gazette described the reception  as a "hero's welcome."

There has been wide criticism of the deal within the Cree communities. Moses has spent a lot of time defending the deal to reporters and wrote an editorial in yesterday's Montreal Gazette. Sources: Actualité, CBC, Montreal Gazette. 

December 19, 2001

Cree leaders may have deal in a week

Cree leaders are in Montreal working on the final details of the Rupert deal. Sources: CBC, Montreal Gazette.

December 15, 2001

Hydro Quebec has hidden agenda

Hydro Quebec's real purpose for the deal is to divert Rupert River into La Grande River reservoirs, according to a CBC Radio story. This information comes from a report commissioned by the Crees. It says the La Grande system has 13 per cent less water flowing in and that the construction of power dams on the Rupert and Eastmain Rivers may not be financially feasible for the utility.

December 10, 2001

$3.6-billion Cree-Quebec deal unraveling

by Alex Roslin

A historic Quebec-Cree deal announced with much fanfare in October has provoked a bitter debate among Crees, threatening to torpedo one of the biggest settlements with a First Nation in Canadian history. 


November 10, 2001

Cree deal a model or betrayal?

by Alex Roslin

A $3.8-billion hydroelectric agreement to build a dam complex in Northern Quebec has outraged residents of the region's nine Cree villages who say the provincial government has blackmailed their leaders. S T O R Y

October 29, 2001

Cree leaders cut a deal and surrender the Rupert

After fighting the Quebec government, and its agency Hydro-Quebec, in its plans to dam the major rivers and log the forests on their ancestral lands, the Cree have surrendered the Rupert River. According to news reports, the Rupert will be diverted north into the Eastmain River. 


Boyce Richardson's Commentary

James Bay Crees surrender their great river Rupert

25 years of force-fed acculturation


James Bay Project

The largest hydro-electric power development in Canada is the James Bay project in Quebec, which started producing electricity in 1982; its eight dams and 198 dikes contain five reservoirs covering 11,900 square kilometers, half the size of Lake Ontario. The combined capacity of its generating stations is 15,250 megawatts.

The first phase dammed the La Grande River, with diversions from the Eastmain and Caniapiscau Rivers. The second phase for the Great Whale River has been delayed by strong opposition from the Crees. Currently, the Crees have a tentative agreement to divert the Rupert River into the Eastmain-La Grande system. 

  Sources: National Atlas of Canada, Hydro Quebec




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