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Eastmain-1 dam renamed for former Quebec premier

BY Amy German Nov 21, 2019

Almost a year to the day after his passing at the age of 81, the Eastmain-1 hydroelectric dam and generating station were renamed for former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry in a celebration that brought together leadership from the Cree Nation and Quebec on November 4. As well, the Eastmain-1 reservoir was renamed the Reservoir de la Paix des Braves.

According to Hydro-Québec spokesperson Francis Labbé, the decision to name the facilities after Landry and the historic deal he made in 2002 with then-Grand Chief Ted Moses was a suggestion from the Commission de toponymie du Québec. The commission is the provincial board that chooses names for facilities, roads, parks and other major landmarks. As it had been a year since Landry’s passing, the commission searched for a way to honour the man who served as Parti Québécois premier from 2001 until an election loss in 2003.

“With Ted Moses, Bernard Landry, as premier, took charge of these negotiations and ended up in a deal that is probably an example of what should be done when it comes to Aboriginal relations with the provincial government and even the federal government,” said Labbé.

According to Labbé, most of Hydo-Québec’s facilities have been named for various Quebec politicians who helped develop the projects.

As an example, he pointed to the Manic-5 generating station on the Manicouagan River which was named for Daniel Johnson. Johnson, who was instrumental in the development of the dam in the 1950s and 60s, died of a heart attack in his hotel room the night before he was to attend its opening ceremony.

No Hydro-Québec installation has been named after any Cree leader. But, said Labbé, “There is always an opening if someone else has a proposition to make. We are quite ready to listen to any proposition that would be interesting for both Hydro-Québec and the Cree.”

According to Grand Chief Abel Bosum, who spoke at the naming ceremony along with Ted Moses, the Cree have never suggested a hydro project be named for one of their leaders because Crees have a challenging history with hydro-electric development.

“I am not sure that a Cree leader or their family would feel comfortable with us naming a hydro-electric infrastructure after a loved one. There are important infrastructures in our territory built for our communities that I believe are more appropriate (to name) for a Cree leader,” said Bosum.

The Grand Chief gave the example of naming the Chisasibi airport after Robert Kanatewat in 2016. This was fitting because Kanatewat – a signatory of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement – was someone who connected communities by taking Cree perspectives to the south and welcoming guests to Eeyou Istchee.

Bosum said naming the hydro installations for Landry and the reservoir for the Paix des Braves is appropriate because the development was preceded with discussions between representatives of the Quebec government and the Cree Nation. Landry represented an “important paradigm shift with the establishment of a nation-to-nation relationship between the Cree and Quebec,” he noted.

As for naming infrastructure for Cree leadership, Bosum said there was a resolution passed several years ago that called for the James Bay Highway to be named after the late Grand Chief Billy Diamond. 

“This is a project that we will be exploring with Quebec in the near future,” said Bosum.

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Amy German has worked in the magazine industry since 2001 and has her own personal blog. She is pretty much never without something to say and is always looking for a story.