Nemaska, Justice Croteau of the Quebec Superior Court rendered a decision yesterday, November 25th that concluded: (translation) "?when the Canadian Parliament adopted the Constitution in 1982, its modifications in 1983 and the Law on the Application of the JBNQA (James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement), it chose to limit its sovereignty." The judgement was made in a decision against the request by the Government of Canada that it not be a defendant in the Cree claim before the Court concerning Cree rights and forestry activities in the James Bay Territory, Eeyou Istchee.
Canada, in its argument before the Court argued that the Court did not have the jurisdiction to render an injunction or a mandamus order against it because this was a power reserved for the Federal Court only. Justice Croteau, citing the Supreme Court ruled that: (translation)"The immunity of the Crown, invoked by Canada, in respect to injuctive orders or mandamus does not apply in respect to litigation of a constitutional nature, especially in a context where the question of aboriginal rights is raised?To recognize an immunity of the Crown from the execution of an injunction order on Aboriginal Rights would be discriminatory towards Aboriginal Peoples of Canada in addition to being unconstitutional."
Grand Chief Ted Moses stated upon reading the judgement: "Canada has always tried to find way of avoiding its treaty obligations to the Crees as set out in the JBNQA. In this most recent attempt it tried to characterize our rights under the Agreement as being only subject to the administrative procedures of the Federal Court. Canada sought to be shielded, to hide from its fiduciary obligations to the Cree People. This judgement clearly sets out that the Cree rights are strong and limit those of Canada, including Quebec. In its pleading Canada made the false argument that some of the rights of the Crees under the Agreement are not protected by the Constitution of Canada. Justice Croteau set the record straight. Cree rights are protected against contractual, administrative and legislative efforts to undermine them."
Deputy Grand Chief Matthew Mukash commented: "Canada and Quebec have been using unjust and wrong interpretive strategies to undermine our rights in the JBNQA. They withhold essential services from the Cree People. Canada refuses to allow fire protection services and is withholding other funds because we Crees insist on our treaty rights. Quebec is blackmailing the Crees by refusing to honour the most recent agreement with us for $132 million in needed community projects. Both governments do this because we insist that they recognize the Treaty as the basis of an ongoing relationship. We refuse to extinguish our fundamental and constitutional rights as a condition of Canada and Quebec providing basic housing and community development measures already promised in 1975."
In the main case of which the present judgement was a part, the Crees seek remedies from the Court as a result of the damages suffered by the Cree people to their traditional way of life and to their economy. Among other things the Crees seek a halt to the present forestry operations and practices that damage the Cree traditional way of life. They seek a complete environmental and social impact review of the present forestry plans and practices, under section 22 of the JBNQA and Federal Law as a way of obtaining a regime that would be compatible with their way of life in the bush and implement their rights to benefit from development on the James Bay Territory. They also seek compensation for the damages suffered to date.