The Grand Council of the Crees

Joint Cree Statement to the World Commission on Dams

Joint Cree Statement to the World Commission on Dams

Posted: 0000-00-00

The World Commission on Dams released its Final Report, recommending international standards, guidelines and criteria for decision-making in the planning, design, construction, monitoring operation and decommissioning of dams. On the occasion of the release of the WCD Final Report, indigenous peoples, organisations and individuals around the world have endorsed the attached call on financial institutions to immediately implement strict guidelines to prevent and address the adverse impacts of water and energy projects.

We, the James Bay Cree Nation and Pimicikamak Cree Nation, indigenous peoples in the boreal, subarctic regions of Canada, have suffered ongoing violations of our fundamental human rights (as was recently recognized by two United Nations human rights monitoring bodies) as a result of massive hydro-electric development in our traditional lands.

As peoples who have been dispossessed and devastated by the adverse biophysical, socio-economic and cultural affects of water and energy projects, we:


The James Bay Cree Nation and Pimicikamak Cree Nation are indigenous peoples in the Quebec and Manitoba regions of boreal, subarctic Canada that have been adversely affected by hydro-electric mega-projects involving river diversions and river basin re-engineering since the 1970?s.

Tens of thousands of square kilometers of our traditional hunting grounds and waters have been flooded or rendered inaccessible; our fish and waters have been contaminated with methyl-mercury; and our environments, economies and societies assaulted by rapid and imposed change.

We have been dispossessed, displaced and environmentally, culturally, economically and socially devastated by large hydro-development projects, initiated and built in our traditional lands by the state-owned electricity corporations Hydro-Quebec and Manitoba Hydro respectively, against our wishes and without our consent. The human rights dimensions of what was done to us as a result of these large dam mega-projects has until now never adequately been understood.

Human Rights Dimensions

We have long known that these projects and their impacts constituted violations of our human rights.

However, this has only recently become adequately acknowledged. In December 1998, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights assessed Canada?s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In finding Canada in violation of its international human rights obligations with respect to its treatment of indigenous peoples in
Canada, the Committee declared:

The committee views with concern the direct connection between Aboriginal economic marginalization and the ongoing dispossession of Aboriginal people from their lands...

Then in April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee assessed Canada?s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In finding Canada in violation of its international human rights obligations with respect to its treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada -- most particularly the fundamental human right of self-determination enshrined in Article 1 of the ICCPR ? the U.N. Human Rights Committee declared:

The Committee notes that, as the State Party [Canada] acknowledged, the situation of the Aboriginal peoples remains the most pressing human rights issue facing Canadians.? In this connection, the Committee is most concerned that... without a greater share of lands and resources institutions of aboriginal self-government will fail, [and] the Committee emphasizes that the rights of self-determination requires, inter alia, that all peoples must be able to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources and that they may not be deprived of their own means of subsistence (art. 1 , para. 2).

Our own cases

In our particular cases of dispossession and deprival of our own means of subsistence, the governments of Canada and the relevant provinces and the hydro-electric utilities have benefited from over 20 years of multi-billion dollar revenues at our expense. However, they have to date in no way adequately mitigated, remediated or compensated us as peoples for the profound and ongoing injuries and losses we have suffered.

Deprived of adequate lands and resources, we now endure mass poverty and unemployment, ill health including epidemics of infectious disease and suicide, and crises of hopelessness and despair. Moreover, promises of economic development assistance, employment, training and community development, made to us in formal treaties entered into as minimal, after-the-fact dispensations, have never been meaningfully fulfilled. This state of affairs led a June 1999 Inter-Church Inquiry into Northern Flooding to conclude, in the case of the Manitoba project affecting Pimicikamak Cree Nation, that it has been a moral and ecological catastrophe.

Endorsement of these progressive developments

While there is much further to go, we are gratified by developments such as the attached call on international funding institutions regarding heightened respect for the rights of peoples affected by dam projects.

We call on all public financial institutions to refuse funding to all water and energy projects for which the consent of the peoples or communities affected has not been obtained.

We also endorse the call on all public international financial institutions to immediately implement, in direct cooperation with affected peoples including indigenous peoples, stricter guidelines for all current and future water and energy projects; to halt all projects which do not comply with these guidelines; and to immediately fund reparations mechanisms and otherwise address the devastating consequences of energy development projects on the peoples and communities affected by them.

Along with governments and initiating and participating corporations, international financial institutions must acknowledge and share in the responsibility financial and moral of the consequences of water and energy development projects on the peoples affected by them. These parties, and the societies of which they are part, must immediately and at last take effective steps to prevent the severe harms of the past from being repeated now and in the future.