Treaty One Territory – The Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) is pleased with the Public Utility Board’s (PUB) decision to create a First Nation On-Reserve Residential Customer Class that will not see rate hikes in 2018. Many of the First Nations in northern Manitoba feel the impacts of Hydro development in ways that southerners do not. It is because of this, the MKO, along with our fellow Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs), have argued for the creation of such a classification in the past.
MKO Grand Chief Sheila North said that northern First Nations bear the burden of this crucial element of Manitoba’s economy through the environmental and economic impacts that Hydro dams and their maintenance have on First Nations’ economies and livelihoods.
“This is not a form of charity, but rather a means to address the historical injustices that MKO First Nations have had to deal with. The Hydro rates for our impoverished northern and isolated First Nations affect the well-being of families. Often, northern homes are in default with Manitoba Hydro because of the unfair rates they are forced to pay,” Grand Chief North said. “First Nations families, and the five First Nations under the Northern Flood Agreement have suffered under oppressive Hydro regimes. In many cases, northern families must choose between putting food on the table and paying their Hydro bills. It seems logical that Hydro would acknowledge the positive contributions that our communities have made as well as the negative consequences they have experienced due to Hydro development.”
The MKO and its allies feel this decision is the culmination of years of advocacy and legal wrangling with Manitoba and its utility. First Nations in northern Manitoba has some of the highest rates of poverty in Canada, and the infrastructure and resources available for northern families to improve their home or choose cheaper sources of energy are almost non-existent. The MKO appreciates the PUB and Manitoba Hydro for acknowledging these negative realities and creating the First Nation On-Reserve Residential Customer Class. It should also be noted that Treaty 5, which covers much of northern Manitoba, acknowledges that First Nations have control over the waterways.