The Grand Council of the Crees

Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Cree Positions on Unilateral Secession


Posted: 1998-08-20

[Ottawa] Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come provided this morning an initial reaction to the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada on the Reference re Secession of Quebec. "We are pleased that the Court has confirmed what the James Bay Crees have always argued, namely, that Quebec authorities have no right under Canadian or international law to effect the secession of Quebec unilaterally," the Grand Chief explained.The Grand Council of the Crees intervened in the Supreme Court Reference case to prevent the forcible inclusion of the Cree people and Eeyou Istchee, the Cree territory, into any future sovereign Quebec. The Crees seek to participate in all aspects of the secession debate.Today's judgment highlights the importance of our rights and concerns. The Court emphasizes the importance of the submissions made by the Crees and other Aboriginal intervenors. In particular, the Court notes that this includes "defining the boundaries of a seceding Quebec with particular regard to the northern lands occupied largely by aboriginal peoples."We have been asked to comment on the Court's choice not to address in detail Aboriginal peoples' status and rights at this time. In this regard, we accept the Court's explanation that such elaboration is not presently required since the judgment notes that our concern is precipitated by unilateral secession, which the Court firmly rejects."The Crees have always said, and I say again today, that the Cree people cannot be forcibly removed from Canada without our consent," Grand Chief Coon Come reiterated when he spoke to the gathered press in the foyer of the Supreme Court in Ottawa.In any future negotiations, the Supreme Court underlined that they must be "principled" and that the protection of our fundamental Aboriginal and treaty rights "reflects an important underlying constitutional value which must be respected."In any future negotiations on Quebec secession," Grand Chief Coon Come emphasized, "the Crees will have to be at the table."


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