In a letter sent yesterday to Justice Croteau of the Quebec Superior Court, lawyers for Quebec, Canada and some 20 Forestry Companies , defendants in a court case filed by the Grand Council of the Crees, ask the Judge to remove himself from the case. In a side motion to the main action the Judge pronounced that the constitutional rights of the Crees, had been "openly and continually violated". Quebec, Canada agree with lawyers for the companies in claiming that the interests of their clients would be damaged by the Judge continuing in the case.
Bill Namagoose, Executive Director of the Grand Council of the Crees states: "History repeats itself. Other judges have found in the past that constitutional rights of the Cree had been violated by the governments. Justice Rouleau of the Federal Court found that Canada and Quebec had conspired to undermine the Cree right to an environmental review of the Great Whale Project. Once again they gang up against the Indians, because they don't like to hear that our constitutional rights to protection of the forest and our way of life are stronger than their plans to wantonly destroy both."
He continued: "Normally the demand for the removal of a judge is made on the basis of external circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest on the part of the judge. In this case the Governments and the involved companies do not like the rulings of the judge and ask for his removal. They attack the judge when they don?t win. Ministers Chevrette, Begin, Manley, Collennette, Christine Stewart and Jane Stewart should be ashamed to have their names behind such a crass attempt to violate the normal operation of the legal system."
In the sub-motion to their forestry case the Crees asked the court to subject Quebec's 5 year and 25 year forestry plans to the environmental review process set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Justice Croteau agreed and ordered this and also pointed out that Quebec's Forest Act contravened important Cree rights recognized by the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Cree rights and the Agreement are protected by the Constitution and have paramouncy in Canadian law. The Quebec forestry regime, he said, is a clear violation of the Constitution of Canada and he ordered Quebec to change its forestry legislation by July 1st, 2000, to conform to the rights of the Crees under the Agreement.
On Friday, January 21stth Quebec and the companies received permission for the appeal to be heard to this judgement in the sub-motion. Despite the fact that Canada is not participating in the appeal, apparently having no objection itself to the judgement rendered, it nevertheless decided to go along with the others in both asking for the judge to remove himself from the main case and in threatening to file a court action to have him removed if he does not do so.
" Governments are not fulfilling their trust obligations to aboriginal peoples. Instead, they apply undue pressure on the Canadian legal system when decisions are made that recognize our rights. If Canada, Quebec and the others do not like the outcome of the main case, they have a right to pursue the appeal process in the courts. The Quebec/Canada love-in against Indians goes so far as to attempt to undermine the legal system when their own interests are at stake. " stated Grand Chief Ted Moses.
Bill Namagoose: 613 761 1655, cell 725 7024
Ted Moses: 514 861 5837