WINNIPEG — A northern Manitoba First Nation is calling for a provincial inquiry into racism, discrimination and violence linked to hydroelectric development on its territory.
York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant said Premier Brian Pallister should order an inquiry into the Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro.
"They need to acknowledge the collective and individual trauma that has been occurring through northern hydroelectric development in the province," he said at a Winnipeg news conference Friday.
A report released last month by the province’s Clean Environment Commission — an arm’s length review agency — outlined discrimination and sexual abuse at the Crown utility’s work sites in the 1960s and 1970s. The report said the arrival of a largely male construction workforce led to the sexual abuse of Indigenous women and some alleged their complaints to RCMP were ignored.
The report said there was also racial tension, environmental degradation and an end to the traditional way of life for some Indigenous people.
Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires has called the allegations in the commission’s report disturbing and said she is referring the issue to the RCMP.
Since the release of the report, Constant said traumatic memories have resurfaced in the Indigenous communities hurt by hydro development.
First Nations have tried to bring the issues up in the past, but Constant said it always fell on deaf ears. He said issues with hydro development, including harassment and racism, continue to this day.
"It’s impacted women for decades, since the ’50s and nothing has changed. Women are still treated the same as then," said York Factory Coun. Evelyn Beardy.
"I want to see a day where, before the project is done, that my member doesn’t phone me and say she’s been called a savage or she’s walking down the hallway and has been groped. I’d like to see that stopped. It has to stop."
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