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The St. Lawrence River had long been recognized as one of Ontario’s greatest potential sources of hydro-electric power. But it took decades of negotiations between Canada and the United States before the co-operative development of the International Rapids section of the river, between Prescott and Cornwall, became a reality.On August 10, 1954, Canada and the United States agreed to proceed with the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project and conducted sod turning ceremonies at Cornwall, Ontario, and Massena, New York. It marked the official start of the St. Lawrence Power Project, as Canadian and American engineers began the process of taming the rapids and harnessing the river’s power by building three large dams and 25 kilometres of dikes.
The aim of the joint project was to harness the remaining hydro potential of the St. Lawrence River System and, to create the water conditions necessary for inland navigation of ocean class vessels. In order for the Project to be successful, it was crucial to capture, contain and control the water at the 90 foot drop of the river system known as the Long Sault rapids. This was to be accomplished by the construction of three dams.
Significant areas of Akwesasne traditional lands and islands were flooded, partially or completely to create the head pond for the main dam. The affected lands were taken by the Canadian government (through the Indian Agent) and then transferred to the Ontario Government. The Mohawk Council at that time attempted to discourage the taken of Akwesasne lands and even suggested that the lands be leased to Ontario Hydro for the purpose of power development. Apparently, this was not a feasible option for the government or Ontario Hydro. The Council did manage however, to convince the Canadian government to agree to a “reversion” clause which basically says that the lands to be taken but not flooded are to return to Band control. Ontario Hydro did provide compensation to the Akwesasronon and Mohawk Council for the lands taken.
There are ten Akwesasne islands north of the international boundary line, west of the current power dam that were effected, namely;
A. Sheek Island….partially flooded
B. Adams Island…partially flooded
C. Steen Island…flooded
D. Wagner Island…flooded
E. Grassy Island…flooded
F. Indian Island…flooded
G. Doran Island…flooded
H. Steen Island…flooded
I. Toussaint Island…partially flooded
j. Presqu’ile Island…partially flooded
In 1971, Akwesasne prepared an informal damage claim against the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation for its’ part in the Project. The Seaway did not want to enter into negotiations. The damage claim became the basis for taking legal action in the Federal Court of Canada against a) Canada, b) The Seaway, c) The Queen, d) Ontario and e) Ontario Hydro. When the case came before the Federal Court of Canada, the case was dismissed on a legal technicality. The Court stated that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case against Ontario and Ontario Hydro and that the proper Court to hear that case was the Superior Court of Ontario. Consequently, Akwesasne submitted another claim to Federal Court, except this time it omitted Ontario, and Ontario Hydro. A separate Statement of Claim against Ontario and Ontario Hydro was drafted but for some reason was never submitted to the Ontario Superior Court.
In 1993, Ontario Hydro approached the Mohawk Council to open a set a discussions addressing the outstanding grievances that Akwesasne had relative to the St. Lawrence Power Project. This was start of a 15-Year negotiation process that resulted in the terms and provision contained in the Proposed Settlement Agreement that is scheduled to be voted on by eligible voters on June 14, 2008.
Summary of Key Elements of the Proposed Settlement
a) Aboriginal Title, Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights
Protection of rights, privileges and freedoms of the Mohawks of Akwesasne
Protection rights or claims against the Government of Canada for the construction, operation and maintenance of the St. Lawrence Seaway, including the highway and bridge facilities that cross Kawehnoke (Cornwall Island)
Protection of rights and claims against the Government of Ontario and its Ministries, the United States Government, the State of New York, the New York Power Authority, or any person or entity asserting proprietary interest in human remains and cultural artifacts removed from Sheek Island.
A formal written apology will be issued by OPG to acknowledge its regret for the disregard of the Mohawks of Akwesasne
$20,363.520 (CAD up front)
$2,560,000 (CAD) per year for 10 years
(Total of $45,963,520 (CAD))
d) Transfer of Islands
Adams, Toussaint, Presquile and Sheek Islands shall be placed into the Additions to Reserve Process (ATR) for conveyance back to the Mohawks of Akwesasne as reserve lands
e) Present Facilities and Ongoing Operations
Protection of MCA’s right to be consulted when there is a potential impact on the aboriginal or treaty rights of the Mohawks of Akwesasne
f) Environmental Stewardship
OPG shall establish a process to work with MCA to explore mutually beneficial environmental stewardship opportunities
OPG will participate in a forum to discuss erosion concerns downstream of the R.H. Generating Station
A recruitment strategy shall be developed to have a representative workforce from the Mohawk of Akwesasne
A process shall be established to identify and document contracting opportunities for suppliers and service providers
i) Power Supply
Ability to consult with OPG with respect to advice, guidance, in-kind services and support on MCA’s energy initiatives
j) New Power Development
OPG agrees to consult on any significant changes that may potentially impact the Mohawks of Akwesasne
Parties agree to use commercially reasonable efforts to negotiate a mutually beneficial business arrangement for the development of any additional hydro power in the traditional territory of the Mohawk of Akwesasne
k) Potential Sale of OPG Facilities
MCA will be given fair and equal opportunity and consideration to bid on the sale or lease of the Facilities in public offerings
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Ontario Power Generation at the conclusion of the Proposed Settlement Negotiations agreed with the signing of a joint letter between the lead negotiators to seek ratification from their respective parties. In doing so, MCA will hold a referendum on Saturday, June 14, 2008 to seek ratification of the settlement terms by a majority of eligible voters. This will allow MCA the required time needed to undertake a comprehensive community education/consultation process to properly inform its membership about the settlement terms.
Ontario Power Generation Informational Sessions
Date: Monday, April 28, 2008
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Kanatakon Recreation Center
Date: Monday, May 12, 2008 (tentative)
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Tsi Snaihne Recreation Center
Date: Monday, May 19, 2008 (tentative)
Location: Kawehnoke Community Center
“Tetewataron” CKON 97.3 Talk Show on Ontario Power Generation
Date: Thursday, April 24, 2008
Time: 10:15 am
Date: Monday, May 12, 2008
Time: 10:15 am
Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Time: 10:15 am
**Family and Focus Group Meetings are available upon request. To arrange a special meeting, call (613) 575-2348 (ext. 2232).
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