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Politics ᐊ ᓃᑳᓂᔅᑭᑭᓂᐧᐃᒡ ᐊᐱᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Grand Chief’s first face-to-face with Sophie Brochu since her April appointment delayed by pandemic

BY Ben Powless Sep 25, 2020

It took four months, but new Hydro-Québec President Sophie Brochu finally met with the Cree Nation Government Grand Chief Abel Bosum August 14. 

For Bosum, the meeting “was an opportunity to finally sit down together, at a safe social distance, and officially meet.” The pair had talked briefly by teleconference in April, when Bosum congratulated her and invited her to meet. 

“Our first meeting was a very positive one,” Bosum said. “Mme Brochu is known for being fair and respectful of relationships, be it the one we have with Hydro-Québec, or, more importantly, the relationship we have with the territory, was definitely reassuring.  

Brochu became the first female permanent President of Hydro-Québec April 2, a month into pandemic-control efforts. Previously, she worked over 30 years for energy groups such as the Société québécoise d’initiatives pétrolières (SOQUIP) and Énergir (formerly Gaz Métro). 

Brochu holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Université Laval and two honourary doctorates, and is very active with the community in Montreal, where she lives. 

“It’s with a great deal of humility and enthusiasm that I accept the mandate entrusted to me. At a time when public service is more important than ever, I’m delighted to team up with the thousands of men and women at Hydro-Québec who are passionate about their work and more determined than ever to innovate in order to help customers, support their communities and contribute to Québec’s economic recovery,” Brochu said in a statement in April. 

Grand Chief Bosum confirmed that there are no current negotiations for any new projects, and that Hydro-Québec’s position is to not pursue any projects that “do not have social acceptability.” 

“The Cree Nation has made incredible strides in relation to development, it is no longer possible for companies like Hydro-Québec to unilaterally decide what happens or what is introduced in Eeyou Istchee,” Bosum continued. 

Still, existing projects “require ongoing operational work, including monitoring, refurbishment and optimization not just for economic reasons but also for safety, environmental and wildlife protection or enhancement reasons,” Bosum stated. 

He added that the CNG has ongoing agreements, including the Rupert River Water Management Agreement, which obligates Cree participation in Hydro-Québec’s operational decisions. Bosum says this ensures that all work meets past commitments. 

A spokesperson for Brochu declined the Nation’s interview request but did say that Brochu is “eager to pursue Hydro-Québec’s partnership with the Cree Nation.”

“This was the first meeting for a real exchange on how we can strengthen our relationship and ensure that there is greater transparency in our relationship,” Bosum said.

“Mme Brochu is a very capable leader whose frankness and commitment to keep the lines of communication open I greatly appreciated. She is also clearly a very innovative person so I have no doubt she will be instrumental in finding new ways for the Cree and Hydro-Québec to work together without sacrificing our values.” 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.