In 1982, three years after the Crees received their first compensation monies payable under the provisions of the JBNQA, the decision was made to create a holding company for all the Cree-owned enterprises in which compensation monies were invested. Already two major companies had been established, Air Creebec, the Cree-owned airline primarily devoted to servicing the Cree communities, and Cree Construction Company, whose primary role was to construct the houses and other buildings needed as the Cree communities were rebuilt and developed. Both companies had mandates beyond simply servicing the Cree communities themselves, but were envisaged as commercial enterprises that aimed to be competitive in the business world. A major aim, also, was to provide work for Cree people.
From the beginning these enterprises ran into some difficulties, and in 1982 their ownership was vested in CREECO. CREECO itself describes its mission in a recent publication in this way:
"Aside from the objective of creating wealth, the CREECO companies also have a social mission of partnership with the Cree communities. This involves maximizing native employment in its ranks, and to that extent, CREECO has undertaken training programs in each of its companies. Today, out of a total work force of 525, approximately 30% are native employees.
"The CREECO companies also participate enthusiastically in joint ventures with companies at the local level or with private enterprises to secure contracts in the Territory as well as to ensure transfer of technology. The companies provide grants and funding to communities and regional activities. They have also undertaken work to promote support and co-operation in the business community, both in the Cree world and externally with other native people or groups in Quebec and Canada."
Roderick Pachano is president and treasurer of CREECO (as of the Board of Compensation), and Albert W. Diamond is vice-president. The CREECO Board of Directors are made up of the five members of the Management Committee of the Board of Compensation, Roderick Pachano, John Mark, Matthew Swallow, William MacLeod and Jack Blacksmith, plus four persons appointed by the Board, Eddie Diamond, Kathleen Black, Bill Namagoose and L. George Pachanos. A similar structure has been adopted for all of the Cree-owned companies held by CREECO. Thus there is an identity of responsibility running throughout the Cree-owned commercial enterprises.
The economic and social background
The economic and social background against which CREECO works was described by the company recently in this way:
"There are 12,000 Crees throughout nine communities utilizing an area of some 100,000 square kilometers in Northern Quebec. A land rich in resources which sustains the traditional way of life of the native people through hunting, fishing and trapping.
"Although major changes, such as the hydro development projects, forestry operations, mining and general development have reached most of the Cree lands, a large number of people continue to live off the land as their ancestors did.
"There is also a large youth population among the Crees, of which 60% are under the age of twenty. Of those, approximately 30% are in the school system and although a majority attend community schools, a small percentage attend schools in the South.
"A third of the population is involved in the wage economy and works in various Cree enterprises. These include the delivery of health and educational services, support services for hunting, fishing and trapping, government services and finally, activities related to economic development. The latter have only recently come into being, yet communities, entities and various private enterprises are already busy in a variety of areas, such as forestry, commercial fishing, mining, construction and general contracting, tourism through canoe excursions and outfitting, and finally, commercial and retail operations.
Some thirty per cent of the 525 CREECO employees are native people.
The recent experience
In his most recent annual report, presented to the Annual General Assembly of the Crees in OujÃ©-Bougoumou in August, 1997, CREECO President Pachano noted that 1997 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of CREECO, although Cree Construction Company has existed for 21 years and Air Creebec, a little longer than CREECO. His report described CREECO as "a wholly owned company of the Cree Regional Authority/Board of Compensation, which "acts as a holding company for investments made...in air transportation, ground and aircraft fueling, construction and wholesaling services."
Times have changed, noted president Pachano, and times have been good and hard on the CREECO group of companies. This year was no exception.
"CREECO suffered another setback this year which is reflected in the ...net loss of approximately $1,200,000 on a consolidated basis. This loss was created by the food wholesaler group as it continued to endure growing pains. The other companies produced net profits of approximately $1,000,000."
The food wholesaler group --- Servinor Food Wholesaler Inc., and Jessel Foods Ltd. --- increased their sales by about 75% in their first full year operating together. The group underwent numerous changes in personnel and the present staff is new and very young. "In one group, the staff are experienced but in the other, the staff are inexperienced but with time and the addition of experienced personnel, the group will perform much better," remarked the president.
The construction operations --- Cree Construction and Development Co, Ltd. --- saw the revenues decrease dramatically. The flight operations revenue --- Air Creebec --- also decreased but only by 5%. The ground and aircraft service operations --- Valpiro Inc. --- had a 15% increase in revenues.
All of the CREECO companies, except the construction operations, carried out customer surveys with the view to improve operations. The information received is being analyzed, and new plans and strategies should enable the companies to provide better services and products to its customers and clients.
The construction operation is developing a new marketing strategy which focuses on strengthening the original market of the company and gradually expanding into, first, the North American market and then, the world. This effort has focused on the search and engagement of Crees who are interested in the field.
"It has taken a lot of people to realize the vision of the Cree Nation to be involved in areas which directly affect the people on a day-to-day basis. This includes not only the Board members and personnel of CREECO and all of its subsidiaries but also the customers and clients of the companies as well as shareholders. We wish to express our thanks and appreciation to each and everyone who has made a contribution, great or small, to the continued operations of the companies. More particularly, we wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Cree people who continue to support us morally in ensuring that we have a measure of say in our future through these vehicles.
"We can leave a brighter future for our children by preparing and handing over strong companies which they can use to ensure that they will have full control of their future and be masters in their homeland - Eeyou Astchee. The future is theirs."
The consolidated balance sheet of CREECO showed assets of nearly $68 million of all the companies combined.
Financial figures provided for the various companies include:
Cree Construction: revenues $17, 347,000 (down from $35,847,000 in 1996)
Air Creebec: revenues $23,374,000 (down from $24,682,000 in 1996)
Valpiro Inc: revenues $1,344,000 (up from $1,175,000 in 1996)
Servinor Inc and Jessel Foods: revenues $43.7 million (up from $26.8 million in 1996)
In total the companies had revenues of $86,390,000 in revenues, but expenditures totaled $87,107,000, plus a write-off of $261,000. After taxes, the total loss for the year was $1,220,119, (up from a loss of $807,000 in 1996). Long-term debt, almost half of it incurred in purchase of aircraft, stands at early $24,000,000.
Head office of CREECO is at
Champion Lake, Nemaska, Quebec, JOY 3B0.
Administration office is at
203 Opemiska Meskino, OujÃ©-Bougoumou, Quebec, GOW3CO;
tel: 418-745-3931, fax: 418-745-3844.
Buy Cree Campaign
A 'Buy Cree Campaign" started by CREECO stems from results obtained through a survey initiated and carried out by Creeco which indicated a need to sensitize the Cree population to the importance of purchasing products and services offered by Cree enterprises, whether at a regional or a local level.
To that effect, a poster was developed showing that supporting Cree enterprises will enhance self-sufficiency, viability and employment within the Cree communities.