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HYDRO-QUEBEC AND ABORIGINAL PEOPLES: SEEKING A BALANCE

 MONTREAL, May 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Armand Couture, president and chief operating officer of Hydro-Quebec, today presented to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples the brief being submitted by the utility to the Commission. As Mr. Couture explained, "Hydro-Quebec hopes to offer the Commission a useful contribution to the formulation of concrete solutions that will bring about the desired change in the dialogue between Aboriginal peoples and the other citizens of this country."
 In this address, Mr. Couture presented the five major issues the utility believes deserve priority in its relations with Aborignal communities. He also summarized the utility's main achievements with respect to these issues, which are the necessity for establishing a social compact, self-government, shared land use, the environment and economic development.
 As Mr. Couture told the Commission, "the first issue is the necessity for concluding detailed social compacts that are acceptable and beneficial to both Aboriginal peoples and the population at large." He noted that the "James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is a concrete example of social compromise." The brief submitted by Hydro-Quebec to the Royal Commission recalls that this was a social compact that was freely agreed to and drafted in a spirit of justice and balance and that today, it is one of the most important positive spinoffs of hydroelectric development of the James Bay region. Hydro-Quebec has also participated in eleven complementary agreements and nine specific agreements with various Aboriginal communities in Quebec. That is because the utility favors ongoing negotiation and dialogue. In his experience, "patience and good faith are worth more than legal or media battles in solving concrete problems in the field."
 Hydro-Quebec supports the objective of self-government sought by Aboriginals on condition that it is achieved with respect for the laws and regulations of the country or is compatible with them. But Mr. Couture believes that "this principle must be defined as concretely as possible."
 Likewise, Hydro-Quebec's president and chief operating officer considers that "coexistence between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples on a specific territory must be defined as clearly as possible." In the view of Hydro-Quebec, two fundamental principles must govern the sharing of territory: Quebec needs to use the resources of all of its territory and it must do so with respect for the needs and the way of life of Aboriginals.
 With regard to economic development, Mr. Couture stated that no agreement can be reached if it does not allow development for the benefit of the whole population, and he emphasized that balanced development is particularly important for young Aboriginals who wish to participate in fully economic life without giving up their ancestral heritage in the process. In his view, Hydro-Quebec can make some contribution to Aboriginal self-sufficiency, one of the key objectives defined by the Commission.
 Hydro-Quebec considers the environment to be of fundamental importance, not only for the Aboriginal peoples but for the population as a whole. As a result, it could become an element of convergence rather than a source of conflict. In the words of Mr. Couture, "it is essential that Aboriginals affected by the development projects participate fully in the assessment processes in force, "which, he emphasized, "are an effective instrument for taking the concerns of Aboriginals into account."
 Mr. Couture concluded his address by listing the recommendations Hydro-Quebec made to the Commission. Hydro-Quebec hopes the Commission will:
 -- make a thorough analysis of the factors that facilitate the signing of detailed social compacts and those that obstruct them, so that the principles can be established that will allow the drafting of an acceptable, balanced social compact.
 -- recommend a framework for Aboriginal self-government such that it can be recognized on the basis of concrete situations.
 -- recognize the principle of shared use of territory and define the guiding principles for such use, taking into account the need to establish the conditions necessary for shared use of land by Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.
 -- recognize environmental protection and enhancement as a principal objective and a central point of convergence between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals and recommend concrete actions that will transform a climate of confrontation into one of cooperation.
 -- affirm the right to economic and social development as a fundamental right and an essential condition for reconciliation and issue an opinion on the concept of Aboriginal consent for the exercise of the right to development for land subject to shared use.
 -0- 5/27/93
 /CONTACT: Marie-Pierre Bonnassieux, press officer of Hydro-Quebec, 514-289-2312/


CO: Hydro-Quebec ST: Quebec IN: UTI SU:

TS -- NY068 -- 3001 05/27/93 13:43 EDT
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Date:May 27, 1993
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