Aboriginal group protests Plan Nord, Romaine River

Some of Quebec's aboriginal communities are speaking out against plans to develop Quebec's north, claiming the project focuses too much on making money and not enough on protecting cultures and the environment.

Aboriginal groups from across the province held two demonstrations in Montreal on Friday.

The first moved towards the Hydro-Québec building in downtown Montreal with protesters demanding that the Romaine River, the province's last untouched stream, remain protected.

The river is the site of a controversial Hydro-Québec plant already under construction. The power company said the project should be completed by 2020.

In early August, members of the Alliance Romaine group, an association vowing to protect the Romaine River and surrounding areas, requested that Hydro-Québec retract a $59 million contract with Louisbourg SBC, the company in charge of the construction site.

The group also demanded that Quebec' power authority protect nearby streams starting with the Magpie River, and that a report be created regarding the social, environmental and financial impacts of the current construction site.

Stuart Myiow, member of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawake, said the work done so far has "destroyed the land."

"It's a matter of not only is it destructive to the land, but it's against the so-called human rights policies that Canada is so proud of," said Myiow.

Though the project precedes Plan Nord, demonstrators said the Romaine River issues are emblematic of problems they say the plan will bring.

"We know that the North is a very fragile ecosystem and up to this day, it's still being destroyed. And if we go along with the Plan Nord, it will be the end of the north here," said Stephane Roy of the Onkwehshon traditional council.

Many aboriginal groups have been opposing the $80 billion economic plan, claiming the 25-year strategy could negatively impact their culture and traditions.

Last April, 90 protesters were arrested in Montreal after tension erupted between police officers and hundreds of people opposing a Plan Nord development meeting.

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