Manitoba Hydro dam blockaded by Treaty 5 nations in May due to health concerns now has 90+ workers in COVID-19 isolation

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo of the RCMP presenting an injunction against a blockade of the Keeyask hydro-electric dam construction site on May 20 by Cathy Beardy.

On May 15, First Nations on Treaty 5 territory in northern Manitoba set up blockades on access to roads to the construction site for Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask dam. They did so to stop a shift change plan to replace 600 workers on site during the pandemic with 1,000 workers from Canada and the United States.

Then on May 18, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction ordering the blockade removed.

By May 20, the RCMP served an injunction against the blockade.

The Winnipeg Free Press has reported: “The bands blockaded access roads until Hydro agreed to improve its protocols for out-of-province workers.”

Now the newspaper reports: “[Manitoba Hydro] said its private lab found 16 positives, while another 15 got a ‘not clear’ result. They’re among the 90 workers in isolation at the plant, while another 35 are self-isolating elsewhere.”

That article adds: “[Tataskweyak Cree Nation Chief Doreen] Spence is exasperated Hydro would not boost screening of employees coming from Winnipeg as the city’s case count exploded in mid-October, while health officials have asked other chiefs not to tell band members about presumptive-positive cases.”

Chief Spence says: “We’re not even given all the facts of what’s happening, and we’re taking on the role of providing information to everybody.”

Earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, José Francisco Cali Tzay, stated: “Governments worldwide should support indigenous peoples to implement their own plans to protect their communities and participate in the elaboration of nationwide initiatives to ensure these do not discriminate against them.”

The Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Anne Nuorgam, had also noted that Indigenous peoples are “at disproportionate risk in public health emergencies” and that in response some are “sealing off their territories”.

PBI-Canada has signed this civil society statement that calls on all levels of government to ensure that Indigenous knowledge-keepers are active participants in bodies established by governments to coordinate responses to the pandemic.

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