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Innus revive $11 billion lawsuit for Quebec dam construction

Citing failure of treaty talks, a Quebec native group is reviving a 1998 lawsuit seeking C$11 billion (US$9.9 billion) in damages from the construction of 13 hydroelectric projects -- including the 1,528-MW Manic 5 project -- on their ancestral land.

The chief of the Innus Council of Pessamit said June 27 the lawsuit would name the governments of Canada and Quebec, and utility Hydro-Quebec. He said it would seek compensation for use of the land for 50 years, and for prejudice sustained by the Pessamit First Nation.

Plans call for the amended lawsuit to be assigned to Quebec Superior Court within a few weeks. The first nation did not identify the 12 other dams in a news release describing their plan.

The decision to proceed with the claim followed what the Innus called the governments' lack of will to take into account the land's title and first nation rights.

"The Innus of Pessamit have sustained great and irreparable prejudice with the construction of 13 dams that disfigured the land and irreversibly changed our way of life," Chief Raphael Picard said. "With these, Quebec has grown wealthy flouting our rights and ignoring our land title. It's unacceptable."

The original lawsuit was filed in 1998. In 2002, the Innus suspended the case to work on negotiations leading to a treaty. However, the First Nation said negotiations did not progress.

"For hundreds of years, the First Nation that I represent has been very accommodating with governments who have taken advantage of us and our lands," Picard said. "Our intent is to make things change from now on."

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