Manitoba court orders removal of Keeyask road blockade
By Anthony Capkun
May 19, 2020 – Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction yesterday ordering Tataskweyak Cree Nation to immediately remove their blockade of Provincial Road 280 and the Keeyask Generating Station construction site in northern Manitoba.
“Over 500 employees and contractor staff have been at the Keeyask site for eight weeks now and, for their well-being, we need to rotate in replacement staff so work can safely continue,” said Scott Powell, Manitoba Hydro spokesperson.
And that shift change, according to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), is precisely the problem.
“The Tataskweyak Cree Nation is opposed the 1000 to 1200 staff being brought to the Keeyask work camp to Northern Manitoba during the #COVID19 pandemic,” MKO posted on Twitter yesterday. “The shift change is set to happen tomorrow, May 19, with staff coming in from out of province and from the United States.”
“Our plan goes above and beyond the latest public health guidelines, and was endorsed by Dr. Roussin, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer,” added Powell. “This injunction further proves the plan we have to safely resume regular work rotations at Keeyask protects both our workers and neighbouring communities from COVID-19.”
Meantime, a group called Allied Hydro Council of Manitoba (AHC) has issued a statement supporting the blockade, saying “The Keeyask Cree Nations and other Northern Manitoba communities have a legitimate interest to maintain the security and well-being of their members. The AHC shares their concerns regarding current COVID-19 worksite protections at Keeyask, and supports efforts to protect northern communities and workers—many of which are also members of unions represented by the AHC”.
AHC further states that “Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in both northern Alberta and Saskatchewan emanating from the Kearl Lake work camp have further highlighted the need for a consistent level of protection for northern communities, especially regarding workers travelling from other provinces to the jobsite”.
The injunction gives RCMP the authority to remove the blockade immediately.
The Keeyask Project is a 695-MW hydroelectric generating station being built by Manitoba Hydro in partnership with four Manitoba First Nations: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation.
The utility says the project is currently tracking to meet its $8.7-billion budget, and to have the first unit producing power by October 2020.