• James Bay Project watersheds that will be affected by the proposed James Bay damming project (Map: Steven Fick)

Just the facts: James Bay

Hydro  |   Cree  |   James Bay  |   Treaties


  • Hydroelectric power supplies 20 percent of the world’s electricity.
  • The potential for hydropower exists in 150 countries around the world.
  • Norway produces more than 99 percent of its electricity with hydropower.
  • Canada has two of the six largest hydroelectric power stations in the world.
  • Canada has the largest hydroelectric capacity in the world.
  • There are currently nearly 70,000 megawatts of hydro generating capacity installed in Canada.
  • Hydropower does not produce greenhouse gases or other air pollution.
  • Hydropower accounts for 97 percent of electricity generated by renewable sources.
  • There are many forms of water power, such as hydroelectric, tidal, wave, tidal stream and ocean thermal energy conversion.
  • Hydropower is capable of converting 90 percent of available energy into electricity.


  • Cree are the largest group of First Nations in Canada with over 200,000 members.
  • There are 135 bands of Cree in Canada.
  • Cree cover the largest geographic area of any First Nations group in Canada.
  • The Quebec Cree Nation calls its homeland Eeyou Istchee, which means Land of the People.
  • The Cree language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock.
  • The Cree were friendly with English and French fur traders, which connected them to the Hudson Bay and the North West companies.

James Bay

  • James Bay borders on Quebec and Ontario and islands within the bay are part of Nunavut.
  • James Bay was discovered by Henry Hudson but named for Thomas James, an English captain who explored the area more thoroughly in 1631.
  • The Quebec government has been developing rivers for hydroelectricity in the James Bay watershed since 1971.
  • James Bay is a haven for migratory birds.
  • Hundreds of rivers flow into James Bay.


  • The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) were signed in 1975 and 1978 respectively and were Canada’s first modern land claim settlements.
  • The JBNQA and the NEQA divided the territory into Categories I, II, and III. Category I land is for exclusive use by the First Nations, Category II belongs to the province but natives have exclusive hunting and fishing rights, and Category III is public land where native and non-native people may hunt and fish.
  • In the 1970s, scientists discovered that hydro reservoirs are a source of mercury contamination in fish.
  • Phase one of the James Bay project was completed in 1979.
  • Canada’s first major hydroelectric facility was constructed at Shawinigan Falls, Quebec in 1898.
  • The first electrical transmission line between Canada and the United States was built in 1900.
  • In 1920, hydroelectric power accounted for 97 percent of electricity generated in Canada. Today it accounts for 61 percent.
  • Hydro-Quebec was established in 1944. It is now Canada’s largest electric utility.

More from our James Bay online exclusive:
Travelling the James Bay Road
James Bay damming project: Water under the dam
Dam science
Renewable energy: Wind versus water
Climate change: Taking the heat
Cultural travel
Tolkien landscape: subarctic wilderness of northern Quebec
A conversation with Matthew Coon Come
A brief history of Cree
How to speak Cree