May 15, 2002
Protests reach Fortis shareholders:

Belizean Maya Indian, Elizabeth May, oppose dam at May 15 shareholder meeting

Demonstrators opposing Fortis’ rainforest dam handed out factsheets on the project to shareholders entering the company’s annual shareholder meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland on May 15.  Eligorio Sho, a Maya Indian and wildlife expert from Belize, braved cold and rainy weather to join the protest outside the Fortis-owned Holiday Inn, St. John’s.

The President of the Sierra Club of Canada, Elizabeth May spoke out against the project from the floor of the meeting, asking shareholders to uphold the company’s stated commitment to the environment and cancel the dam.  May entered the meeting with a with a proxy from a Fortis shareholder.  Another shareholder, Dennis Shortall, also spoke out against the project, and others expressed concern at a forum later that evening organized by local Newfoundland groups.

Prepared for opposition, Fortis handed out a slick brochure to shareholders on the Chalillo hydroelectric dam project, and limited shareholders to one question.  During the meeting, Elizabeth May quoted excerpts from the brochure itself, which cites the Natural History Museum of London finding that the best option for the environment would be not to build the dam.  May asked why the company planned to go ahead with the project in light of this information.  May also invited shareholders to the evening forum to view a film about the area that would be flooded by the dam and to join her, Sho and others in a discussion of the project and alternatives.

Fortis CEO H. Stanley Marshall dismissed May’s concerns and launched a personal attack on her and the “Sierra Club of Toronto”.

Evening meeting

More than a hundred Newfoundlanders gathered in a lecture hall to hear Eligorio  Sho, and others speak about the potential impacts of the project on wildlife, on communities living downstream from the proposed dam site, and on Belizean electricity consumers.  Greg Malone, a popular Newfoundland actor and political satirist moderated the discussion with Sho, May and Ari Hershowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Participants in the forum were outraged by Fortis’ callousness and gathered signatures of protest.  As one participant said, “I’ve always been proud to be a Newfoundlander, but this project is making me ashamed.”  She apologized to Greg Sho that a company from Newfoundland would consider destroying this wilderness in Belize.

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