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First nation gets $9.1 million from Hydro
Settles one dispute under flooding pact
Alexandra Paul, Staff Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press, 10 Feb 2000

MANITOBA HYDRO has been ordered to pay $9.1 million to Pimickamack First Nation by an arbitrator appointed under the Northern Flood Agreement. "After 22 years of failure by Hydro, Manitoba and Canada to implement the Northern Flood Agreement, this award is an important validation of our treaty rights," said Chief John Miswagon of Pimickamack, formerly Cross Lake.

The award can be appealed within 30 days under the NFA, which has been the centre of a fiercely fought legal battle between the utility and the first nation, located 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg. "I'd be surprised if we appealed it. It was what we asked for . . . what we recommended, so of course we'll honour it," Manitoba Hydro spokesman Glen Schneider said.

Tension between the two groups was apparent yesterday. Schneider said the first nation has originally asked for $27 million yet was claiming victory over getting only a portion of that amount. Douglas Hodgson, lawyer for the first nation said from his Hamilton, Ont. office that the award will become a capital fund to generate income to run an arena for the community. Hydro originally agreed in 1982 to set up the fund and did so in 1986, but it ran out of money. Hodgson said yesterday the original, interim fund was inadequate to maintain the arena, which Hydro built.

The fund was set at $9.1 million in order to raise an annual income of $315,000 -- the amount needed to keep the arena open. Hydro is to provide free electricity under the order.

"What people have to understand is this is not cold hard cash to the community. It is trust money, to maintain the arena," Miswagon said. There are a number of outstanding claims still to be settled. The NFA was signed in 1977 with five northern first nations to compensate for flooding caused by diverting the Churchill River into the Nelson River to provide electricity to the south. Pimickamack is the only first nation among the group yet to settle its claims.