The James Bay Crees have won an important victory in their fight against forestry activities in their territory. In a decision released yesterday, the Honourable Jean-Jacques Croteau of the Quebec Superior Court concluded that the constitutional rights of the Crees have been openly and continuously violated by the Government of Quebec and the forestry companies.
The Court concluded that the forestry regime in the James Bay territory is contrary to the provisions of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and, consequently, is unconstitutional and inoperative. Furthermore, the Court stipulated that the province has until July 1st 2000 to bring its forestry system in conformity with the terms of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement; including full social and environmental review of forestry management plans. If the regime is not profoundly changed by this time, the Court has reserved the right to stop forestry activities in the James Bay territory.
The Court determined that the approval of general and five year forest management plans submitted by the forestry companies must be subject to full and complete assessments and evaluations of their environmental and social impacts on the Crees as provided for under Chapter 22 of the James Bay and Northern Qu?bec Agreement. Moreover, forestry activities must fully take into account the hunting, fishing and trapping rights of the Crees as provided for in the Agreement.
Justice Croteau also found that Quebec's current forestry regime reflects a negligent attitude, among other reasons, because the government has delegated the powers to develop forestry management plans to the forestry companies.
[Translation] "By thus allowing the forestry companies to undertake a dialogue with certain members of the Cree community, Quebec places these companies in a conflict of interest, or at least, in an appearance of conflict of interest, that may constitute for the general Cree community a fear to be abused or dispossessed of certain rights..."
The Court adds that [translation] "... this negligent attitude can also be seen by the public as an appearance of conflict of interest and thus throw discredit on the provincial administration."
The Court also states [translation] "By this attitude of the provincial administration, Quebec avoids an assessment of the social and environmental impacts as provided for in Chapter 22 [of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement] and the Minister, with the Consultative Committee."
For the Grand Chief of the Crees, Dr. Ted Moses, this is an important decision and a decisive victory in the conflict, which puts the Crees up against the Government of Quebec and the forestry companies. "The Crees have denounced the actions of the government in this matter for many years. The Court has fully vindicated our position. The present forestry regime is quashed and must be immediately replaced by a new regime which takes into account our rights" declared Moses.
"This is a great victory for the Crees. This judgment is the equivalent of the decision of Justice Malouf 25 years ago which led to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement," added Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses: "Let us hope that the Government of Quebec will take this opportunity and seize the occasion to end its irresponsible forestry management system"
For more information contact:
Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses Phone : (514) 232-3104
Bill Namagoose Phone : (613) 725-7024
Rom?o Saganash Phone : (418) 564-1598
Brian Craik Phone : (613) 724-1097