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Gull Bay chief rejects OPG settlement offer

Calling it an insult and morally repugnant, Gull Bay First Nation Chief Wilfred King says his community has rejected a $10 million grievance settlement offer from Ontario Power Generation.
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Calling it an insult and morally repugnant, Gull Bay First Nation Chief Wilfred King says his community has rejected a $10 million grievance settlement offer from Ontario Power Generation.

The repercussions could stall billions of dollars of proposed construction.

King, who halted negotiations with OPG, said the money isn’t enough to make up for damage caused by dam construction on the Nipigon and Ogoki River in the first half of the last century and the Ogoki Diversion in 1943, all of which flooded traditional Gull Bay First Nation lands.

Should OPG not bring a better offer to the table, King said the decision will threaten proposed hydro projects in the area. This includes the Little Jackfish River and the Northwest Transmission projects, which together represent more than $2 billion in construction costs.

It would also stall a majority of future mining projects in the area and most other future development, King said, asking if the provincially run utility is willing to take that risk.

"We’re hoping that OPG would have second thoughts in terms of what they’re proposing and I am hopeful that they will come to their senses and deal with this in a just an honourable way," said King on Thursday afternoon.

Ted Gruetzner, manager of media relations for OPG, said via phone from his Toronto office that while the company won’t negotiate in public, he’s holding out hope the impasse can soon be resolved.

"I think we’re hopeful that the group will come back and we can work through this," Gruetzner said.

King said there are still elders within Gull Bay First Nation who have vivid memories of graves being desecrated during construction, of bodies being exhumed and transported across the two waterways for reburial elsewhere.

"One elder states quite eloquently that they saw their siblings being carried across and it was very emotional for them at the time. They still have those scars and that’s going back 50 or 60 years," King said.

Four other affected communities agreed to settlements, ranging from $12 million to $45 million, he speculated.

Gruetzner said that leaves two awaiting deals.

King said the $10 million offer is not fair and reasonable, and would not be agreed to by either the band council or the membership, who also must ratify any agreed upon deal.

"As the elected representative of the community, and as the chief negotiator, I felt that it did not warrant to go back to council for consideration and also to the community members. I would definitely not accept (the offer) in compared to what other First Nations have received," King said.

Gull Bay First Nation, located about 175 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, has about 400 full-time residents and 1,200 band members in total.

King said he’s not sure if the settlement, when signed, will be split evenly amongst all members or used toward investment in the community.

OPG officials were contacted, but were not immediately available for comment.


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with TBNewsWatch.com since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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