Since 2001, York Factory First Nation has been discussing a possible partnership for the Keeyask Generating Station with Manitoba Hydro, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation. An agreement called the Joint Keeyask Development Agreement (JKDA) was developed laying out the terms of this partnership, which is called the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP).
The Joint Keeyask Development Agreement (JKDA)
The JKDA is a legal agreement that has been negotiated between Manitoba Hydro, York Factory First Nation (YFFN), Fox Lake Cree Nation (FLCN), and the Cree Nation Partners (Tataskweyak Cree Nation [TCN] and War Lake First Nation [WLFN]). YFFN negotiators and five Councillors were involved in negotiating this agreement. In this partnership, Manitoba Hydro and the four First Nations will become co-owners of, and investors in, the Keeyask Generating Station.
The JKDA also sets out the rules for how the partners receive revenues from the project as well as opportunities for training and employment, business development, the construction and operation of the project, and environmental monitoring of the project.
The JKDA Referendum
In 2009, YFFN held several rounds of information meetings in York Landing, Thompson, Churchill and Winnipeg. Then on March 26, 2009, YFFN held a referendum vote to seek direction from its membership as to whether Chief and Council should sign the JKDA. There was also an advance poll held on March 9, 2009. The referendum question asked each YFFN member if they would support Chief and Council in signing the JKDA – Yes or No. YFFN members were also asked if they would support the signing the Adverse Effects Agreement – Yes or No. Four different possible scenarios were presented to YFFN members.
Of 713 eligible voters on and off reserve, 261 cast ballots (37%) and most, 216 (83%) voted “Yes” for signing the JKDA. For the Keeyask AEA, 220 (84%) voted in favour of Chief and Council signing this agreement. The JKDA and the AEA required a simple majority of votes to support the signing of the agreements. In the end, YFFN voted in favour of the first scenario and the JKDA and AEA agreements being signed.
YFFN’s interest in becoming a partner in the proposed Keeyask project is based on the potential benefits to YFFN including potential revenues from the project. Other potential benefits include a share of jobs and training for YFFN members, business opportunities, direct negotiated contracts (DNCs), and an ongoing voice in Keeyask project management and operations.
Signing this agreement has also made YFFN a proponent (or supporter) of the hydro-electric development project. As a proponent, YFFN has to support the Keeyask project through the environmental licensing process.