The Grand Council of the Crees

Annual report of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) 1998

Posted: 1998-09-04

Following is the annual report of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), presented to the annual general assembly of the Cree people in Chisasibi on August 4-6 1998.

MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
BILL NAMAGOOSE

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The year 1997/98 had its usual highlights and some low points in the Cree Nation journey towards the future.

The lowpoint came when the Cree nation lost one of its leaders. James Shecapio who successfully instilled pride and determination in the Cree Nation youth lost his life as did his young daughter, in a tragic car accident. The leadership he provided to the Cree Health Board is greatly missed. What he could have accomplished and his full potential will never be known.

We also pay respect to the elders who passed away this year. We all share the same feeling, that a piece of our history and knowledge is lost with the passing of each elder.

Those who passed away this past year spent much of their lives living off the land. They gave us their knowledge and helped us to fight for the rights of the Cree people. The Cree lands and its vast resources continue to generate revenues for the Quebec and Federal government at a average rate of about l00 million dollars per week or over 5 billion dollars per year. The Quebec Government enjoys this revenue in the form of provincial taxes and dividends from Hydro Quebec while the Federal government enjoys approximately 250 million in GST revenues. In the Forestry sector the harvesting of Cree resources generated over one billion dollars in economic activity.

The Cree Nation received its funding for normal programs and services. There is a fifteen percent cut to our housing program in June 98 and the capital budget remains static. The Quebec Government has not yet paid for it's recent commitments and the Federal Government did not provide any new funding toward their James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement obligations, outside of firehalls. In fact Quebec has asked the Cree Nation, the bands and organizations to borrow the money Quebec owes to them, in order that Quebec's commitments in the Memorandum of Understanding be realized.

There is definitely something wrong with this picture. The land and resources generate so much for Canada and Quebec but yet the funding to the Cree Nation, whose land it is, remains static and is cutback.

The Cree leadership's meeting with Premier Bouchard in Waswanipi allowed discussions on certain issues to take place despite the many political and legal challenges on several fronts. The full realization of these talks is hampered by the Quebec Government's claim that it faces severe financial problems . However, the amount of funding involved is insignificant, when taking into consideration the Quebec Governments overall spending. Yet, they still stall in releasing these funds.

The Roundtable Process between the Cree Leadership and Federal Cabinet Ministers had a successful launch. The negotiation phase of this process will deal with the important and also the more concrete issues and should address the needs of the Cree Nation. Other than the 15 million dollars for emergency and fire safety projects the Federal Government has not made any new funds available towards its James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement obligations. This will be the focus in the up-coming round of discussions with Canada, along with the obligations of Canada outside of the Agreement.

There are new initiatives on several fronts, including on the forestry issue. The forestry initiatives should have some positive impact towards dealing with this important issue. Quebec forest practices have had severe negative consequences upon the Cree traditional way of life for many years. We were promised in 1975 that our way of life on the land would be protected in the context of all development, including forestry. This has not happened, as we all know. The new Megiscane diversion and the talked about Rupert River diversion are important issues that we must deal with as a Nation over the next year. We cannot let Hydro Quebec continue to erode our land base.

There is also a process under way with the First Nations Bank to provide banking services to the Cree communities. The Cree regional entities have agreed among themselves to consolidate their business and if the banking services offered to the communities are satisfactory, they would then transfer their business to the First Nations Bank.

The Grand Council of the Crees and the Minister of Health and Social Services have agreed in principal to set up discussions on the needs of the Cree Health Board. These discussions will start this fall.

Finally I wish to express my appreciation to all staff at the CRA/GGCBI for their continued service. Although our numbers are few, the members of the Cree Nation greatly appreciate your presence and efforts.

Meegwetch.

 

FEDERAL RELATIONS

MOSES-VENNAT NEGOTIATIONS

The Crees have always been interested in developing an honourable government-to-government relationship with the federal government. This is reflected in the report of the Eeyou Istchee Commission (1995) which stated:

"Eeyou must ensure and take all measures necessary so that the present Eeyou Government becomes a realistic process of governance by Eeyou through the political self-empowerment of Eeyou and their institutions."

Hence, during 1997/98 the relations with the Government of Canada were largely concerned with the negotiationsthat were set up in 1997 between Grand Chief Coon Come and former Minister of Indian Affairs Ron Irwin. In his letter acknowledging the setting up the process Minister Irwin stated that, "The above process and measures testify to our continued commitment to the implementation of federal obligations, including those arising from the JBNQA, through the Grand Council of the Crees." The present Minister Jane Stewart has confirmed her support for the process and has expressed this both in meetings with Matthew Coon Come and in letters. Most recently she stated: "We see this initiative as an opportunity to promote a government-to-government relationship, within the framework of the Canadian Constitution, between the Cree Nation (Eeyouch) of James Bay (Eeyou Astchee) and Canada. In 1997 the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Jean Chretien indicated his support when he stated to Grand Chief Coon Come: "I am advised you and the Minister discussed an approach to developing a new relationship which would allow Mr.Vennat, for Canada, and Dr. Ted Moses, for the Cree, to continue their important work."

The first discussions in the fall of 1997 with the Federal representatives concerned the use of the $15 miHion set aside for certain community projects and of the $6.5 million for housing initiatives. In addition, the organization of the negotiation process and the range of issues to be dealt with were under discussion. In respect to certain issues it was recognized by the parties that there could be need for involvement of the Province of Quebec.

In order to get the ball rolling the Minister of Indian Affairs, Mrs. Jane Stewart and the Grand Chief met in September and agreed to hold the first of a series of Round Table meetings between members of the Federal Cabinet and the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), thus giving expression to the government-to-government nature of the relationship. Attempts were made to hold the meeting in the Cree community of Eastmain, but it was finally agreed, for logistical reasons, that the first meeting be held in Ottawa in 1998.

In preparation for the first Round Table Meeting and for the subsequent negotiations, the Cree negotiator made a tour of the communities to discuss priorities and to inform the Cree people on the upcoming negotiation process. The communities brought many concerns to Dr. Moses. These included matters touching mostly areas of jurisdiction and governance concerning the Crees. The consultation sessions were well attended and the participants were keenly interested in continuing the efforts to develop and seek recognition of the Cree Nation Government. They expressed the need for efforts to improve housing, services and community infrastructure and to facilitate access to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities on the whole of the James Bay Territory, Eeyou Istchee. Matters such as self-government, policing, justice, economic development, the Cree Trappers Association, environmental protection and transportation and communications and recognition of Cree jurisdiction in the offshore were all high priorities. Resolution of the problems associated with the Ouje-Bougoumou land transfers and the declared intention of the community to negotiate a separate agreement for the recognition of their rights, were discussed.

The first Round Table meeting held on June 30, 1998 involved the Nine Cree Chiefs plus the Deputy Grand Chief and Grand Chief and for the Government of Canada, Minister Jane Stewart (Indian and Northern Affairs), Minister Christine Stewart (Environment), Minister Pierre Pettigrew (Human Resources), Minister Andy Scott (Solicitor General), Minister John Manley (Industry), Minister Ethel Blondin-Andrews (Children and Youth), Mr. Guy St. Julien (Chairman of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs) and Mr. Bernard Patry (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Jane Stewart) as well as advisors. The Round Table allowed the Cree Chiefs and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and Deputy Grand Chief Violet Pachanos a chance to speak openly about the relations with the Federal Government and to exchange views with the Ministers. The Federal and Cree negotiators also spoke about the process.

Negotiator Ted Moses said, in introducing the process that: "In order to proceed we will need some genuine new thinking on an old problem: How can Canada, which is a country built on liberal principles of democracy, embrace the recognition of a people with special needs and a different past and language? If we cannot manage this with our relatively small nation in Quebec, then how will Canada embrace Quebec itself with its special needs?"

Grand Chief Coon Come then stated:

"Our vision is of a Cree Nation that is viable and self-sufficient --- viable because it is self-sufficient. The Agreement provided explicitly that the Crees would be beneficiaries of this resource development, sharing in the jobs that would be created, forming companies, entering into contracts for goods and services, and sharing in the development of the Territory and in the revenue that it produces."

He continued: "In the 1970s, our parents and grandparents were overjoyed that they would now he afforded some benefits, education, health care, the institutions taken for granted by all other Canadians. This brings me to the four fundamental New Relationship and James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement 'issues' on today's agenda. First: The Imperatives of Social and Economic Development; Second: Cree Nation Governance and Jurisdiction; Third: Complete and Sustainable Communities; Fourth: Eeyou Istchee Territorial Issues."

The Minister of Indian Affairs, Jane Stewart, began her comments by reversing a long-held but erroneous tenet of government policy in dealing with the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. She stated that the Agreement was the basis of a permanent relationship between the Government of Canada and the Crees.

This statement and the statements of the other ministers helped to build confidence that the process would lead to new approaches to the recognition of the Cree Nation and to the promotion and development of the Cree communities as viable living and work places of the Cree people.

The joint "Cree-Canada Round Table" Purpose Document, set out the overall direction in stating: "It is proposed that the current focus of the Round Table be to launch the New Relationship and establish priorities for the negotiations about to begin. Economic and community development and self-sufficiency issues will be at the top of the Round Table agenda, including ways to overcome impediments and establish the necessary partnerships. In identifying mutual priorities, emphasis will be to the protection and promotion of the health, security and viability of the Cree communities."

OTHER ISSUES

In addition to the negotiation process, other things were dealt with during the year. The clean-up of the military sites in the Cape Jones area and north of Chisasibi/south of Whapamagoostui became an issue when the Federal Government negotiated an agreement with the Kativik

Regional Government (KRG) for the preliminary clean-up of these sites, some of which are south of the 55th parallel. After an exchange of letters with the Federal Government the program for 1998 was discussed between Chisasibi and Whapamagoostui Council representatives and the KRG. In future years the work to be carried out on these sites will involve some effort to have Canada and Quebec put in the kind of resources required to meet acceptable standards.

The issue of the acceptance by Canada of the inexact boundary surveys of Category lA lands, for the purposes of finalizing the 1975 land transfers has yet to be resolved but was the subject of exchanges with the Department of Indian Affairs. Canada has in fact not yet accepted the final descriptions, and there is a need for the Province of Quebec, the Crees and the Government of Canada to review and resolve the outstanding issues.

The under-funding of the Cree-Naskapi Commission came up again this year. The Grand Chief wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs to request that the Commission be funded to allow it to properly carry out its mandate. This has not been the case since its inception. In addition, the Grand Chief demanded that the Minister deal with the Report on the Inquiry into the Cree-Naskapi Commission which is now more than five years old. The Minister has asked that the matter be taken up in the Vennat-Moses Negotiations and in the interim has sought some additional funding to help the Commission with immediate needs.

The Grand Chief wrote to the Premiers last year, as well as to Minister Dion to demand participation for the Crees and for other aboriginals in the Calgary Unity Meeting. He put forward the Cree concern that recognition of Quebec's unique status within Canada could damage the Cree rights within Quebec and Canada.

In regards to the Donahue Access Road, proposed for the Waswanipi Nemaska area, the Grand Chief wrote to the Minister of the Environment to demand a review of the road under section 22 of the JBNQA. The Minister refused this, stating that the review would not be done under section 22 since the Eastmain decision of the Federal Court of Appeals, and that a review of the bridge over Broadback River would be carried out under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This led to representations made to the Standing Committee on the non-respect for the Agreement. The Report of the proceedings of the Committee entitled: "Enforcing Canada's Pollution Laws: The Public Interest Must Come First! --- Third Report, May 1998", stated: "122. For the purposes of our immediate discussion, however, the Committee sees the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (or its non-implementation) as further evidence that once an agreement is in place, the federal government fails to assume its full responsibilities and take action where appropriate, preferring instead to withdraw from the field and reducing its resources accordingly..." The report also called for an "in-depth study to determine whether methyl-mercury released into the aquatic environment as a result of the creation of reservoirs should be regulated under CEPA (Canadian Environmental Protection Act)." (Italics added)

Other issues such as an aboriginal appointment to the Supreme Court, the firearm regulations, and negotiations were subject during the year to exchanges with the Federal Government and its representatives.

HOUSING AND CAPITAL MATTERS

The critical shortage of housing and related infrastructure reported in prior years continues to grow. A 50% increase in adequate housing units is required to counter the overcrowding and accelerated deterioration of existing units and the resulting serious social and health problems.

This problem exists because the formation of new family units has far exceeded the number of new units, which can be built each year with the limited assistance provided by the Government of Canada. Federal assistance for Indian housing has been frozen at the same level since 1984.

This assistance comes from two sources; the INAC housing program and the CMHC social housing program. The former is included in the annual capital grant. The latter is provided with reference to a "life-time cost envelope" which is a measure of the amount of subsidy required to support a rental housing project over the period required to pay off the mortgage. This subsidy does not cover all the ongoing costs, which is why rental collection is such an important issue. Uncollected rents result in less money for maintenance and could ultimately lead to default in loan payments. If a community were to default, Canada would move to withhold future capital payments until the default was made good. The communities collectively owe approximately $100 million to various financial institutions for previous housing projects.

CMHC modified its program effective this year. While these modifications are positive the level of assistance has not been increased.

Last year we were successful in obtaining $6.5 million from INAC's special housing initiatives program. This is one-time funding and was used primarily for renovations. However this amount was not sufficient to meet all of the renovation requirements estimated at $30 million.

Of the $15 million up front funding received last year as a result of the Federal negotiations $8.5 million was earmarked for infrastructure expansion as most communities had run out of serviced lots. The balance was earmarked for fire halls and community planning.

Discussions are underway to receive additional 0 & M funding to maintain the fire halls, special infrastructure additions in certain communities and new facilities resulting from the Quebec M.O.U. process.

As reported last year the Federal government has committed to address the housing issue in the context of JBNQA implementation negotiations. While this is no guarantee that Canada will recognize housing as a JBNQA obligation it is a step in the right direction. This issue is identified as a top priority based on the community consultations.

It is important however for everyone to realize that this problem will not be completely resolved by negotiations. We need to develop new approaches to ensure that as many units as possible are obtained from the scarce resources. That the distribution of resources both between and within communities is equitable. Finally the major challenge is to obtain the maximum benefit in terms of economic spin-offs from the new construction which will continue to unfold over the next decade.

THE CREE NATION INSURANCE PROGRAM

INTRODUCTION

Over the course of the last two fiscal years several major steps were taken toward the objective of self-insurance for the Cree Nation. A revised plan of action was proposed to the Board of Compensation in December 1996, this plan was approved and was the basis of all activity on the Insurance file over the last two years. It has been arduous getting to where we now are and we still have a way to go on the Self-Insurance program, embarked upon four years ago.

CURRENT STATUS

A major activity in the plan was finding a licensed Broker to work with the Cree in a fronting arrangement. This arrangement would reduce costs for that portion of the specific insurance coverage needs for property, automobile and business interruption insurance and would also assist us in acquiring the need of other basic insurance coverage. Following a research process a Brokerage firm from Montreal was selected to serve as our Broker.

We toured the communities in January 1997, and over a period of two weeks we managed to visit all the Cree communities and update the books of characteristics. Although difficult in completing the update of this information, it was eventually concluded and submitted to the Broker. Throughout the process of acquiring the proper coverage and costs of premiums the Broker was closely monitored by our consultants. This was most efficient in the completion of this task while yet obtaining the best coverage at reasonable costs.

We met the Directors of Operations and Treasurers, in February 1997, to discuss options available to us for our renewals. It is important to note that the Directors of Operations and Treasurers were the appointees acting as the Insurance Advisory Committee. There were various issues that needed discussion with two of the most important being: 1. the premium to be charged to each Community; and, 2. the deductible for the property segment of the coverage. Appropriate recommendations were tabled to the Board of Compensation meeting in March 1997, and were approved.

Currently the insurance program sees the Cree Nation as being partly self-insured on three of the major insurance requirements and this has had a direct impact on the premiums we pay for our insurance needs. We are very aware of the responsibilities of each party involved in this program. The program takes into consideration the contributions made by each participant and also has mechanisms in place to evaluate the program at each year end. To date the program is very well structured in accordance to our present needs but there remains room for improvement in future needs.

FUTURE

Interest has been expressed by other Aboriginal groups as to the possibility of joining our program. Although in a relatively good position for our insurance needs there remains in-depth study if expanding this program to include other Aboriginal groups. For the fiscal year 1998/99, the Creeco Group was approved by the Board of Compensation to join this insurance plan. The Creeco group joins our umbrella coverage but not for their specialized needs such as aircraft for Air Creebec. A program administrator will be recruited in July 1998, to administer this major file.

CONCLUSION

During the past three-year period ending March 1998, the Communities have saved approximately $1.2 million in premiums with this program. This is a very modest figure as we do not calculate the new acquisitions and various trends that the premiums would be opened to if each Community still had their own policy in effect. I would conclude that the program the Crees embarked upon for insurance purposes is very much in the infancy stage but to date we have made tremendous progress on this file.

TAXATION

The GCCBIICRA was active during the past year in defending Cree interests in relation to personal income tax, corporate income tax and sales tax.

A. PERSONAL INCOME TAX

1. Federal Income Tax Trust Account

The CCCEI/CRA, in association with the Cree School Board, successfully negotiated a final settlement with Revenue Canada of the long outstanding federal income tax "trust account" dispute. This dispute concerned the ownership of certain amounts paid by these Cree entities into "trust accounts" in respect of federal income tax claimed by Canada to be due on the salary paid to certain Cree Indian employees working at off-reserve locations between 1975 and 1983. Over the years, Revenue Canada had attempted on several occasions to seize the amounts held in these trust accounts, and the Cree entities had opposed these attempts.

Revenue Canada made a final attempt to seize these amounts in April 1996. In response, the Cree School Board, with the support of the OCCEI/CRA, filed legal proceedings in the Federal Court, Trial Division seeking a declaration that these funds belonged to the former Cree employees. Discussions with Revenue Canada to settle the dispute began shortly thereafter, and were brought to a successful conclusion in December 1997. Under this settlement agreement, almost $1 million was paid out to close to 100 former Cree employees.

2. Federal Income Tax Appeals

Over the past year, about 20 Cree individuals' income tax appeals, dating from the period 1975-83 and pending in the Federal Court or Tax Court of Canada, have been settled. Discussions are proceeding with Revenue Canada with a view to settling the remaining several appeals.

3. Off-Reserve Employment

The GCCEI/CRA sponsored a two-day taxation workshop for members of the Cree Nation of Mistissini who work off-reserve at the Inmet Troilus Mine. The workshop reviewed the criteria of tax exemption under the Indian Act and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act , as interpreted by the courts and by Revenue Canada. The need to consider tax planning options was discussed.

B. CORPORATE INCOME TAX

An appeal remains pending before the Court of Appeal of Quebec in Tawich Development Corporation v. Deputy Minister of Revenue of Quebec. The issue in this case is whether a Cree band, constituted by the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, is a "Canadian municipality" for the purposes of the Quebec Taxation Act. If so, its wholly-owned subsidiary is exempt from Quebec income tax and capital tax. In February 1997, Mr. Justice Vermette of the Quebec Court dismissed the appeal of Tawich Development Corporation, holding that the Cree Nation of Wemindji, its sole shareholder, is not a "Canadian municipality". While recognizing that the Cree bands exercise powers and provide services similar to those of Canadian municipalities, Mr. Justice Vermette held that the bands were not formally constituted as municipalities. Hence, their subsidiaries do not qualify for exemption from income tax and capital tax.

This ruling contradicts that of the Tax Court of Canada in Otineka Development Corporation Ltd. v. The Queen, 94 DTC 1234. An appeal of the Tawich has been filed in the Quebec Court of Appeal; the hearing date has not yet been set.

C. SALES TAX

The GCCEI/CRA intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in Union of New Brunswick Indians v. New Brunswick (Minister of Finance). The appeal concerned the application of the Indian Act tax exemption to provincial sales tax on off-reserve purchases by Indians where the goods purchased were to be used or consumed on reserve. New Brunswick required that such goods be delivered on-reserve by the vendor in order to qualify for exemption. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal, in a majority decision, held that this "vendor delivery" requirement was invalid, and that the tax exemption applied even where the goods were purchased off-reserve insofar as their "paramount location" was on reserve. The Province appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. The GCCFI/CRA intervened in support of the Union of New Brunswick Indians. The Supreme Court heard the appeal on 25 March 1998.

On 18 June 1998, the Supreme Court rendered judgment. In a majority decision, the Court held that the Indian Act tax exemption does not apply to off-reserve purchases of tangible goods by Indians. The Court held that, for the purposes of provincial sales taxes, the legal location of the goods purchased is the "point of sale", not its "paramount location". Hence, if goods are purchased on reserve, the Indian Act tax exemption applies, wherever the Indian purchaser may reside, and wherever the goods may be used or consumed. Conversely, if goods are purchased off-reserve, the Indian Act tax exemption does not apply, even if the goods are to be used or consumed on reserve.

The positions of the federal and provincial governments concerning the exemption of Indians from sales taxes vary widely in Canada. Some jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan and Ontario, do not charge sales tax on off-reserve purchases by Indians showing a status card. Other jurisdictions, such as Canada, Quebec and New Brunswick, require that goods purchased by Indians off-reserve be delivered on-reserve by the vendor in order to qualify for exemption from sales tax.

The reaction of the federal and provincial governments to the Supreme Court's decision in Union of New Brunswick Indians will likely emerge over the coming weeks and months. It is important that aboriginal organizations engage these governments so as to influence the positions they will take.

FORESTRY WORKING GROUP

Since forming in the spring of 1995, the Forestry Working Group has been exploring a number of avenues to address the on-going negative impacts of forestry in Eeyou Istchee. In its early stages the group's focus was directed at two issues. First was to develop a thorough understanding of what was happening in our forests and the second issue was to develop an economic profile of the industry in Eeyou Istchee.

To do this we had to find out what companies are operating in the territory, how much they have cut in the past, the rate at which they are now cutting, and how many trees they intend to cut in the future. Through the help of the Working Group's community representatives and the technical staff of the CRA/Grand Council, we were able to develop a profile of how forestry activities are affecting the Crees. Once this was established our second task was to develop an understanding of the value of these trees to Quebec and the forest industry.

Given that the trees of Eeyou Istchee generate over $1 billion annually, it is not surprising that Quebec has designated the territory as a priority zone for forestry development. This status explains the increasing levels at which the companies are cutting. These rates have increased to the point where over 500 square kilometres of land are clear-cut every year. The magnitude of this problem compels the Grand Council and all the communities to take decisive action.

Last year it was reported that Mistissini was requesting that legal action be taken on forestry. This option was accepted by Council/Board and a case has since been developed. Over the last five months members of the Forestry Working Group, with the support of legal staff and the Grand Chief toured the communities who would be involved in the case to explain the nature of the legal action. Support for this initiative was overwhelming and the case is in the final stages of preparation for filing.

Throughout the time that this case was being prepared, the Forestry Working Group has held an open dialogue with the provincial government. The key issues that have been jointly identified for discussion are:

and needed changes to the current forestry legislation and regulations to reflect the rights and guarantees present in the JBNQA.

Continually Quebec has tried to sidetrack these discussions by attempting to focus on specific field-level changes. While these changes are necessary, the members of the Forestry Working Group felt that only broad substantive change to the entire forestry regime would bring about the necessary conditions to be effective. The difference in approach between the Crees and Quebec took several months to resolve; however provincial officials, perhaps in response to rumours of the Cree forestry case, eventually agreed hold a dialogue based on the four broad areas that were identified.

As a gesture of their intent to resolve this issue, Quebec has also agreed to:

unofficially notify companies to cease operations on traplines
whose natural and human disturbances to forest cover exceed 70%;

enter into discussions over the joint development of a land-use plan
for the Cree communities located in the commercial forest zone;

and, assist in the funding of this dialogue.

As part of a province-wide program benefiting all First Nation communities, Quebec has since contributed $30,000 to each Cree community for forestry-related projects.

Although progress of discussions with the province has been slow and there is no clear indication that Quebec will agree to the changes we think necessary, the Forestry Working Group will continue to explore this avenue with Quebec. It is the view of the Working Group that our problems over forestry will not be resolved unless both sides can come together "government-to-government~ in a structured environment. Because it is not clear that such an environment is attainable, the Forestry Working Group will continue to advance our case in the judicial arena.

As a final note, the Grand Council would like to congratulate the community of Waswanipi for their recent Model Forest designation awarded by the Canadian Forest Service. Waswanipi's designation marks the first, solely, Aboriginal Model Forest in Canada.

QUEBEC-CREE RELATIONS

As in the past, the Grand Council of Eeyouch (of Eeyou Istchee) has been without a Director of Quebec Relations for certain periods of time, for reasons that have nothing to do with politics as such. In light of the present context however, it was certainly a fully justified decision to proceed with the recruitment of a liaison officer responsible for governmental relations with the province, on behalf of the Grand Council and the Cree communities. The present Director of Quebec Relations began his mandate in January 1998.

QUEBEC RELATIONS

Whatever the political motive or objective that successive governments in Quebec may have, it remains necessary to maintain Political Relations with the Government of Quebec especially (but not limited to) as a signatory of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and, therefore, it must live up to its commitments and obligations towards the Cree people by virtue of the said treaty.

In addition to the general functions of politics and legislative monitoring inherent to the position of Director of Quebec Relations, the office is also called upon to ensure, for the Grand Council and the communities, access to government officials and programmes. Many Ministers have been met over the past year in the capital of the province on numerous issues and files involving Cree rights and interest. Furthermore the Grand Council and the Cree communities will continue with the policy of inviting Quebec Ministers to visit Eeyou Istchee and hear first hand and directly the concerns and the aspirations of our people. The Cree Nation has, since the Premier of Quebec Lucien Bouchard came to Waswanipi on June 12, 1997, pursued its interests in having their meetings with Quebec in Eeyou Istchee. Among numerous other officials, Eeyou have welcomed Ministers Pauline Marois (Education), Jean Rochon (Health and Social Services) and Guy Chevrette (Natural Resources, Responsible for Regional Development and Native Affairs).

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Quebec-Cree Relations continue to be based on and influenced by a number of instruments, and on occasions by politics as well. From the constitution of Canada as it relates to both Quebec and the Cree people, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, governmental policies to political developments that happen from time to time, all should have a direct interest to the Cree Nation. For example, it is useful to continue to remind ourselves the principles put forth by the Grand Chief and the Cree Chiefs to Premier Lucien Bouchard and Minister Chevrette at the Waswanipi summit: a) proper land base with recognized control, jurisdiction and authority, b) an equitable access to the resources of Eeyou Istchee, c) sharing of the wealth of natural resources, d) respect and implementation of Quebec obligations under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and e) the establishment of a proper relationship based on such principles as the right to self-determination and equality of peoples.

As the very least, any future agreement or other form of arrangement should reflect the fundamental principles stated above, including the Quebec negotiations led by Chief Billy Diamond. Although the general Quebec-Cree negotiations are based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with then Premier Jacques Parizeau on May 23,1995 and the implementation agreement on the MOU dated March 27,1998, these negotiations should nevertheless be guided by the Cree principles.

It should be noted that the above process does not include or otherwise prevent the parties to proceed with parallel negotiations on specific issues. In fact, there are presently implementation negotiations pertaining to Cree Health and Social Services (S.14) and Cree Policing Services (S.19) above and beyond the questions dealt with through the MOU process.

PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT ACHIEVEMENT

On April 2,1998 the Government of Quebec adopted a new policy document or provincial guidelines for its relations with Aboriginal Peoples in Quebec. Although the programmes instituted through the new policy may be most relevant, the basis or the principles underlying the document remain, from an aboriginal perspective, questionable. After some analysis and debate among the First Nations, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador rejected the foundations of the new policy respecting Sovereignty of the National Assembly, the regulatory and legislative "affectivity" of the province and the territorial integrity of Quebec, and proceeded to adopt their own 26 principles that will, from now on, guide Aboriginal - Quebec relations. It is perhaps worthwhile to mention that Quebec established, over the next five years, a $125 million fund to assist local economic development initiatives and participate in community infrastructure development needs. These are priorities we too have identified, over which we have called for government action and that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples has pointed to as urgent matters.

Aboriginal peoples in Quebec, including the Eeyouch, have stated their willingness for stable, viable and harmonious relations with Quebec but not on dubious premises, we need to establish these relations on respect, dignity and mutuaHy acceptable principles --- not on unilateralism as in 1985 when the National Assembly adopted its first major policy document.

HYDRO-QUEBEC AND THE CREE

After many years of battle, there now seems to be a truce between the Cree Nation and Hydro-Quebec. Indeed, following a meeting between Hydro's Chairman Andre Caille and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come on June 5,1997, it was agreed to proceed with the establishment of a Task Force to deal with Hydro-Quebec/Cree Relations in general. The letters of exchange in fact both spoke in broad and general terms with respect to the role and mandate of the Task Force. While Mr. Caille wrote about "issues of the past and opportunities for the future", Grand Chief Coon Come's main interest was for the "review of Hydro-Quebec Cree Issues and Relations."

Although the mandate of the task force is broad enough that it could include future projects, the Cree members of the Task Force have excluded such a possibility and therefore do not view the Committee as one negotiating for future projects on Eeyou Istchee. This aspect is a political prerogative that remains with the Grand Council of Eeyouch and the Cree First Nations. The role of the Task Force in this context will simply be to facilitate meetings and contacts.

Moreover, Hydro-Quebec officially released its five-year Strategic Plan (1998-2002) during the last week of October 1997. The Strategic Plan reflects more or less a major shift in corporate policies as they relate to environmental questions and aboriginal issues while promoting growth both within and outside Quebec given the rapidly evolving electricity markets in a deregulation context. It should be noted that, with respect to Hydro's relations with Aboriginal peoples, the policy which provided the framework for past agreements with the Eeyouch is now replaced by a policy of direct participation by affected communities in the new projects. To this end, Hydro-Quebec proposes the limited partnership model where the partners invest jointly into new projects, share the benefits, and share the revenues, over a long-term period.

Finally, Hydro-Quebec's 1998-2002 Strategic Plan does not refer specifically to projects it wishes to develop to meet the forecasted growth, simply referring to a "Portfolio of Partial Diversions and other Projects". However, the strategic plan does outline the three conditions under which new projects will proceed, and onlv if all three are met. Hydro-Quebec has since repeatedly stated and confirmed by writing that any new project, on Eeyou lstchee or elsewhere, must respect in order to proceed the following conditions.

Essentially, the message behind Hydro-Quebec's new approach is perhaps the recognition that our past relations were maybe founded on false premisses, thus the need for a new partnership with the Eeyouch in Eeyou Istchee. Premier Lucien Bouchard's message to the Cree people last year in Waswanipi was no different and expressed it by stating the desire and wish of the government of Quebec to "enter into a partnership" with the Cree Nation.

In order for the Eeyouch to find out whether or not the new mentality displayed is sincere, we will have to take both Hydro-Quebec and the Government of Quebec to task.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

The process of implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Quebec in 1995 continued during the last year and the communities saw concrete results from this initiative.

It has been a time-consuming process to get the letter and spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) fulfilled, and this was evidenced by the signing of various agreements regarding community capital projects on March 27, 1998 and the principal implementation agreement signed on the same day.

Issues have been expanded and built upon and the objective has been to concentrate on those areas of greatest need and where results can be achieved.

Additional capital funding will be set aside and transferred in the 1998-1999 and subsequent years and the communities are now looking at their respective priorities to be further prepared to undertake their capital needs.

Other areas of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) have been moved forward as well.

Facilities and services for the elderly and disabled have been the object of a needs analysis, which is being prepared for review by the Cree people. It has also been made clear that each Cree community vision of needs for their members must be pursued.

Issues relating to economic development are being defined in some detail so that they may be put in place.

Having Quebec involved in capital and economic development is a major policy change and has taken ample time to accomplish. The Working Group on Forestry has commenced its mandate and this has been complemented by discussions on other development matters. The implementation plan is clear and the discussions are based upon Cree traditional rights, economic and other benefits to Crees, as well as changes to the existing regime.

The crucial issue of revenue and wealth-sharing has been kept as a major point to be addressed and which this year will be a priority of the coordinating and steering committee based on input from other working groups.

Regional authorities have been addressed, only when there is a need, Cree direction, and a specific request.

The future of the James Bay Development Corporation and the James Bay Municipality have been caught up in this discussion and changes to these entities will take place only with Cree input.

Other matters, which were not formally in the Memorandum of Understanding, have been addressed, such a Cree Training Centre, housing matters and tourism issues. The Mistissini/Ouje-Bougoumou table has been set up and those communities are taking on the challenge of getting long delayed matters concentrated on.

Parallel negotiations have not been affected and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process has been used on request to help these talks move forward, and to get senior government attention focused on these matters. Direct discussions between the communities and Quebec on other matters have also not been affected by this process.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process has been a delicate one, which was the subject of Cree internal debate and consideration. This has proven to be useful in bringing forward issues that had to be addressed and permitting Cree Chiefs and the Cree negotiator move forward knowing what had to be accomplished and with the input of the many concerned.

The upcoming year will be one of profound concentration on specific matters in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and with emphasis placed on the concrete and tangible needs of the Cree people.

POLICY DEVELOPMENT

There have been a number of policy developments in or concerning Quebec that are of direct relevance to the status and rights of the James Bay Crees and other First Nations. These include: i) the Calgary Declaration; ii) the Quebec First Nations' Fundamental Principles of Peaceful Coexistence; and iii) Quebec's new policy on Aboriginal Affairs. Each of these initiatives may have far-reaching consequences for the Cree people and are described briefly below.

THE CALGARY DECLARATION

The Calgary Declaration is officially called a A Framework for Discussion on Canadian Unity. It is a political statement that was drafted in Calgary on September 14, 1997 by the nine provincial Premiers and the two Government Leaders of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard chose not to attend the Calgary meeting. Since then, he has expressed his government's opposition to the Calgary Declaration. Except for Quebec, legislatures in Canada are in the process of expressing their support (with or without changes) for the Declaration.

The Calgary Declaration lists some political and other basic characteristics of Canada --- from the Premiers? perspective. It is an attempt to build political support for one or more future amendments to the Constitution of Canada. At its core, the Declaration is intended to give basic recognition to the 'unique character' of Quebec. Through this initiative, provincial and federal governments hope to dissuade Quebecers to vote Yes in any future referendum on Quebec secession.

Despite specific requests from AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, the Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs in Quebec were not invited to the Calgary meeting (September 14). The Chair of the meeting, Premier Frank McKenna, indicated that the meeting would only discuss possible future 'processes' for public consultation. However, as evident from the Calgary Declaration, the meeting focussed extensively on substantive matters relating to the fundamental principles of Canada.

On November18, 1997, the Premiers and Territorial Government Leaders invited the five national Aboriginal organizations to participate in a meeting in Winnipeg and discuss the Calgary Declaration. At this meeting, First Nations leaders raised a number of key concerns. In particular, it is unacceptable that the Declaration excludes Aboriginal governments and peoples from the notion of 'partnership'. Virtually every government in Canada has, at one time or another, spoken of the need for a partnership with Aboriginal peoples. Yet, the Declaration only includes federal, provincial and territorial governments in the stated partnership.

First Nations leaders have repeatedly underlined that they are not against Quebec being recognized in the Constitution as having a 'unique character'. However, it is emphasized that this must not be done at the expense of First Nations. In addition, if the intention is to possibly include a new preamble in the Constitution that describes the 'fundamental characteristics' of Canada, then First Nations must be described in an historically accurate manner that affirms First Nations' fundamental status and rights.

Aboriginal leaders are aware of the importance of trying to accommodate Quebec at this time and are seeking to play a positive role. Any future process possibly leading to constitutional amendments must provide for adequate and direct input and participation of Aboriginal leaders from the outset. This point received some consideration at the November 18 meeting in Winnipeg. In a joint press release, the Premiers and Territorial Leaders acknowledged that in any future constitutional review process affecting Aboriginal rights and interests they will support the participation as equal partners of the five National Aboriginal Organizations.

To date, there is still no clear indication that the provincial and federal governments are in fact prepared to make the necessary amendments to the Calgary Declaration and accommodate First Nations concerns. As presently drafted, the Declaration is not an adequate framework for discussion of Canadian unity. Therefore, ongoing involvement and vigilance by the Grand Council of the Crees will he essential.

FIRST NATIONS FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE

On May 19,1998, the First Nations in Quebec adopted 26 principles that are integrated in a common document entitled Fundamental Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. This unified position affirms the inherent status and rights of Aboriginal Peoples in Quebec. As the document describes, these principles "form a basis for harmonious relations, effective policy-making and equitable negotiations with non-Aboriginal governments in Canada." For greater certainty, it is recognized that the Aboriginal, treaty and other rights of male and female Aboriginal persons are guaranteed equally.

The Fundamental Principles of Peaceful Coexistence serve as a kind of Magna Carta and framework for First Nations in Quebec. Although not exhaustive, the principles reflect the collective and individual human rights of Aboriginal peoples. They are also fully consistent with existing and emerging norms in such international instruments as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, No.169.

The Principles are drafted in a broad and flexible manner, so as to be capable of embracing an extremely wide range of situations facing First Nations. The Principles address such vital matters as the unique status of Aboriginal peoples; right to self-determination; right to self-government; right to self-identification and cultural rights; land and resource rights; development and environment issues; importance of treaty-making and treaty rights; participation in constitutional and other processes; the Royal Proclamation of 1763; equitable access to financial resources; renunciation of 'surrender' or 'extinguishment' of fundamental rights; notion of 'partnership'; and the inappropriateness of unilateralism by non-Aboriginal governments.

The Fundamental Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are intended to update and build upon the l5 principles that were adopted by the First Nations in Quebec in 1982, as well as the 1994 Declaration of the First Nations of Quebec and Lahrador (Lac Delage). In this way, a most important policy document has been produced by the First Nations in Quebec that continues to reflect and further develop First Nations perspectives, values and approaches.

This latest position of First Nations stands in sharp contrast to the inappropriate and unilateral policy document on Aboriginal affairs recently announced by the Quebec government. The new Quebec policy document is described briefly below.

Quebec's New Policy Document on Aboriginal Affairs

On April 2,1998, the Quebec government publicly distributed its new policy document on Aboriginal affairs entitled 'partnership development achievement'. The document addresses such critical issues as lands and resources, economic development, self-government and financial self-sufficiency and should be carefully considered. Regrettably, the orientation and guidelines in the policy document were unilaterally determined by the Quebec government. Moreover, the resulting policy is highly prejudicial to Aboriginal peoples in many key respects.

Quebec's policy document does not reflect the status, rights, perspectives, and approach of First Nations in various essential ways. As currently drafted, Quebec's new policy on Aboriginal affairs does not provide an acceptable foundation for First Nations/Quebec government action for a number of fundamental reasons. These include:

Denial of Aboriginal peoples' status

Contrary to the Constitution Act, 1982, the policy document generally refers to Aboriginal peoples as 'people' (not 'peoples'). By refusing to recognize our distinct legal status, the Quebec government in effect seeks to deny that Aboriginal peoples are 'peoples' with the right to self-determination.

Inappropriate references to 'territorial integrity'

The notion of 'territorial integrity' is reserved for states and not provinces. In the provincial context, 'territorial integrity' is vague and arbitrary in its application and goes far beyond the stated objectives of the policy paper. The boundaries of the province of Quebec are already protected under Canada's Constitution. 'Territorial integrity' has extensive implications under international law and it appears that the government is using it here to advance Quebec's own sovereignty agenda.

Domination rather than 'partnership'

Although Quebec's policy document claims to promote 'partnership,' a prevailing objective appears to be domination and control of First Nations by Quebec. In this regard, the document insists on 'fundamental reference points' that include not only the 'the territorial integrity of Quebec', but also the 'sovereignty of the National Assembly' and 'legislative and regulatory effectivity'. However, First Nations and governments do not choose to be subjugated or subordinated to the jurisdiction of the National Assembly of Quebec.

'Contractual jurisdictions' rather than treaty rights

The policy document makes clear that, except for land-related aspects of a comprehensive land claim agreement, the provisions of any future agreements would not be constitutionally protected. In many instances, the arrangements negotiated and the recognition of Aboriginal peoples' rights could be terminated after a period of five years. The contractual approach is a direct attack on the treaty-making capacity and status of First Nations. Both now and in the future, Quebec's contractual approach would serve to severely limit the application section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which confers constitutional protection on our treaty rights.

Unilateral imposition of Quebec jurisdiction

In the absence of negotiated agreements, the policy paper makes clear that the Quebec government will exercise its 'full jurisdiction' over First Nations and communities and territories. Such unilateralism would seriously undermine Aboriginal/Quebec relations and is unacceptable.

Denial of relationship with federal Crown

As First Nations, we have the right to determine our own relationships. However, the new policy paper of Quebec attempts to divert First Nations away from our relationship with the federal Crown by denying or severely minimizing the federal role in the Aboriginal/Quebec context. The choice of including the federal government in certain aspects of Aboriginal negotiations and as a party to agreements must be determined by the First Nations concerned and not by Quebec. Insistence on bipartite agreements is another unacceptable method through which the Quebec government seeks to establish 'effective control'.

Hopefully, the Quebec government will realize that genuine partnership cannot be achieved by unilaterally imposing far-reaching government policies on Aboriginal peoples. However, to date, the government has shown little or no sign of changing its current approach.

SUPREME COURT REFERENCE

In September 1996, the federal government passed an Order-in-Council asking the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion on the legality of unilateral secession by Quebec from Canada.

This case has been referred to as the most important case ever to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. Oral arguments in the Federal Reference Case to the Supreme Court of Canada were heard before the Supreme Court in Ottawa in the week of February 16 1998.

Eenouch were a key intervenor in this case, along with Makivik Corporation, the Quebec Algonquin and the Chiefs of Ontario. The government of Quebec boycotted the case; as a result, the Court-appointed legal counsel presented the separatist viewpoint. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and NWT also intervened, along with a range of other individuals and organizations.

Through 1997 our legal team Claude-Armand Sheppard, Paul Joffe and Andrew Orkin prepared extensive written arguments and volumes of supporting authorities and submitted them to the Supreme Court. In order to adequately argue the Cree case, our counsel submitted over one hundred pages of argument to the Court, supported by over 4,000 pages of authorities.

The issues being discussed in this Reference Case include our status and rights as a people, and the status of our traditional Cree lands. If we had not been there, and if we had not made the strong intervention that we did, these issues and our rights would have been discussed and decided in our absence.

The Court was asked by the federal government to decide whether, under the Constitution of Canada and international law, Quebec can separate unilaterally from Canada. It was also asked whether Canadian or international law decides the question, in the event of a conflict between the two.

Fundamentally, the Cree answer to these questions was based on the principle of Cree consent. The Crees argued that the Cree Nation has a constitutional veto on Quebec secession, at least as far as such a secession would involve any change to the status and rights of the Cree people and our traditional territory.

Our position at the Supreme Court is that the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement requires Cree consent for any change to the arrangement and relationships we have with the federal and Quebec provincial government. With respect to international law, we asserted that the James Bay Crees are a people as defined in international law, and as such have the fundamental right to freely determine our own political future in this context.

As a result of these fundamental rights under Canadian and international law, the Cree position is that the government of Quebec cannot separate the Cree people or our traditional Cree territory from Canada without our consent. To do so would be practice a form of colonialism.

The Crees also asserted that in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence (a "UDI") by Quebec, the Crees would have full access to the principle of "effective control" in respect of our traditional lands and waters. And even if it wished to do so, the government of Canada is not in a position to permit the removal of the Crees and our traditional territory from Canada without our consent, and is obliged as our fiduciary to act to protect our rights.

In short, we told the Supreme Court that we and our traditional territory are ours to control, and that no government or other people can make decisions that will affect our fundamental rights without our consent.

Our Cree Nation intervention in this Reference Case was reasoned, exhaustively supported by Canadian and international authorities, and forcibly argued in Court. We made very clear that the Crees are not secessionists, and that we are arguing for renewing and strengthening our relations with other orders of government in Canada. However, we also made clear that in the event of Quebec secession, we reserve the right to secede from a secessionist Quebec.

The government of Canada urged the Court to consider only the narrow provisions of Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982, namely the procedures for amending the Constitution. Amazingly, the Attorney-General of Canada indicated that while Aboriginal and treaty rights are important, the Court should not consider or mention them in answering the Reference questions.

The "amicus curiae" for Quebec took the basic position that the Courts have no jurisdiction over Quebec separation. Nevertheless, the "amicus curiae" for Quebec did indicate that the separatists are relying on the principle of "effective control", namely that Quebec has a "right" under the Constitution and international law to declare its independence and then exercise "effective control" over all of the people in Quebec and all of its present territory. The "amicus curiae" for Quebec did not mention Aboriginal and treaty rights at all in his argument to the Court.

On the last day of the oral arguments, in response to questions from the Court, the government of Canada repeated its position that the Court should not consider the issue of Aboriginal and treaty rights in this context. The Montreal Gazette of February 20 1998 wrote:

"Yesterday, it was clear from their questions and their comments that the [Supreme Court] justices do not appear to share the federal government's narrow view of their mandate --- particularly when it comes to Aboriginal rights." ?So we should bear Aboriginal rights in mind but not talk about them,? Chief Justice Antonio Lamer remarked pointedly after Yves Fortier, lawyer for the federal government, suggested that the court keep Aboriginal rights in mind when drafting its answer but not include them in its ruling. ?It seems to me, Mr Fortier, that [Aboriginal rights] is an essential and integral part of the [Court's] response to the question,? interjected Justice Peter Cory. ?This group, Aboriginal people, is perhaps the group that is most vulnerable and most affected, and when you take into account the background, surely these are matters, are issues that must be taken into account.? "

The "amicus curiae" for Quebec was asked by the court whether there is only one people in Quebec for the purpose of secession. Very significantly (because this contradicted the statements to date on this issue by Premier Bouchard), he responded that Aboriginal peoples in his view are "peoples" in the full sense of the word, and that we have the right to self-determination at the same level as Quebecers.

The Court session in this Reference case was attended throughout not only by our legal counsel, who prepared and were presenting our arguments to the Court, but also by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Bill Namagoose and other representatives of the Cree Nation.

It is clear that the Cree Nation must continue to assert our rights in every forum, including where possible in the Courts. Our position has gained widespread international support, including from leading international experts. The stakes for the Cree people in coming months will be very great, including the Territory as a whole and the resources it contains. We must be fully informed, completely united, and we must defend our position carefully and with conviction, intelligence, and courage.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

The Cree Nation has maintained its consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations since 1987. Through this affiliation the Cree Nation has been able to keep the international community informed about its activities, and has engaged in a process of consultation and negotiation regarding the protection of Cree rights.

While the Crees have rights under the Canadian Constitution as citizens and aboriginal peoples, and treaty rights through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, it is important to understand that Cree rights are also protected under international law.

The Cree Nation has been very active in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples under international law, and has worked to assure that indigenous peoples are now recognized as "subjects of international law". This means that Cree rights are no longer determined by the exclusive decisions of the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec.

Both the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) are engaged in a process of human rights "standard-setting" at the present time. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights is reviewing a draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that has been approved by the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations and by the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

The review is taking place in a series of special UN meetings where indigenous peoples and State governments meet to explain their viewpoints and policies on the rights of indigenous peoples. The decisions that this body eventually makes will seriously affect the rights of the world's indigenous peoples. The Grand Council of the Crees, represented by Ambassador Ted Moses, has been engaged in these high level negotiations at the UN.

A similar process at the OAS has also involved consultation with the Grand Council of the Crees. Ambassador Moses, on behalf of the Grand Council has made numerous submissions and recommendations for the text of the instruments being drafted.

Both of these human rights instruments are expected to be approved during the remaining years of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples.

Ambassador Moses has also continued to represent the Cree Nation at the level of international fora, and other meetings where international rights issues are involved. The Crees continue to participate directly in meetings of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and of ECOSOC.

Through Cree efforts these international bodies are now aware of a number of important Cree issues: the rights of the Cree People in the context of possible Quebec secession, implementation and respect for Cree treaty rights under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Cree resource rights including hunting, fishing, and trapping; mining; forestry, hydro-electric exploitation, and related questions. Environmental protection issues have also been brought to the attention of the international organizations.

The Cree Nation has also supported the struggle to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in other parts of the world. Ambassador Moses continues to meet and work with Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum and other indigenous world leaders in the Indigenous Initiative for Peace. The Cree Nation is recognized for this work.

Cree relations with Italy advanced significantly during the past year with the approval of legislation in the Regione Veneto (Northeast region of Italy) for a twinning agreement with the Grand Council of the Crees and the creation of a support association, the Eeyou Veneto Weejeudowun with headquarters in the city of Padua. Already this year the Association has sponsored participation by the Cree Communication Society in an international television film festival, and other activities are planned. The twinning agreement will support cultural, political, and business development activities with the Crees. Tourism in the Cree communities has already commenced.

The Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree School Board participated in the sixteenth session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the UN office in Geneva in July, where the principal theme was education and language".

This meeting also considered the final report of the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on treaties, agreements, and other construction arrangements between States and indigenous peoples. The Grand Council of the Crees made submissions to the Special Rapporteur regarding the failure to fully implement the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The Special Rapporteur visited the Cree communities during the preparation of this UN report.

Through the work of the Grand Council of the Crees and other indigenous organizations at the UN, the recognition of indigenous peoples? rights under international law have advanced significantly during the past several years. The international recognition of the rights of the Cree people helps support the efforts of the Grand Council of the Crees to gain respect for our rights in Canada. This is particularly important now that international law issues have become part of the debate on Cree rights in the Province of Quebec.

It is an honor to address you again this year and be given the opportunity to report on the activities of Eeyou of Eeyou Istchee.