The Grand Council of the Crees


Submitted by Ginette Lajoie, M.Sc. Environment Coordinator/Analyst

Posted: 2002-06-00

Traditional Pursuits Agency / Cree Regional Authority

JUNE 2002

There are three main areas of focus in the job that the Environment Coordinator/Analyst must accomplish: (1) Act as advisor to the environmental and social protection committees operating under section 22 of the JBNQA and work in collaboration with the GCC on environmental policy issues of interest to the Cree Nation, (2) Support the development of environmental management systems for the Cree local governments (in close collaboration with the LEAs) and (3) Conduct special projects. This is a summary description of the activities carried out in 2001-2002.

1. Environmental management:

A number of projects addressing issues of environmental management and contamination in the Cree communities and Eeyou Istchee in general were conducted under the direction of the Environment Coordinator. Those projects are:

Environmental Compliance Audit (ECA) at the airports of Eastmain, Waskaganish and Wemindji:

This project was carried under commission from Transport Canada. It was followed by a preliminary site characterization study (phase II) in order to determine the kind and extent of contamination encountered at those locations. This study was conducted in collaboration with the consulting firm of Dessau-Soprin. The following items were covered by the ECA: (a) Buildings and equipment, (b) Storage and management of chemical products, (c) Management of petroleum products, (d) Management of hazardous waste management and (e) Environmental Emergency Plan.

The key findings common to the three airports:

The results of the Phase II study are:

Inventory of former Hydro-Quebec and SEBJ exploration sites: complementary inventory summer 2001:

This was the fourth year of this inventory and clean-up project done in collaboration with HQ, EEM Inc. and the nine Cree communities (the project was initiated in 1998). An additional 125 sites were reported in 2001. Each Cree Local Environment Administrator (LEA) was involved in the conduct of the inventory, including the validation of site locations with trappers and they acted as liaison with HQ with regards to clean-up activities. This on going project will continue in 2002-2003. Copies of the annual findings (including maps and the location of all sites) are transmitted on an annual basis by the CRA and HQ to each Cree local government (at the office of the LEA and the local CTA). The CRA is responsible for the inventory report and all third party review of reports commissioned by HQ whil2 HQ is responsible for all clean-up activities and reports.

Groundwater monitoring of waste disposal and contaminated sites in the Cree communities:

Thanks to funding from INAC, we were able to undertake the sampling of a number of groundwater monitoring wells installed since 1996. The LEAs themselves carried out most of the sampling. Samples were sent to a certified laboratory for analysis in Montreal. Training on groundwater sampling techniques was provided to LEAs of Chisasibi and Wemnidji who were recently appointed to this position. This was the fifth year in which the CRA was able to secure outside funding. It is expected that for future monitoring, since the phasing out of the concerned federal program, funds will have to be drawn from the regular O&M funds of each local government. Monitoring of waste disposal sites is done once a year but we are expecting policy changes in the near future that will require as much as three sampling events per year. This should be part of the regular budget of the LEA and should be an important component of the local environment management system (EMS) as described in the Code of Practice.

Phase I environmental site assessments:

The objective of a Phase I ESA study is to establish whether there are indications of potential contamination for a given study site. This is accomplished through visual inspection of the site, interviews and review of historical documentation. Phase I ESA are normally required to local Cree governments by the CMHC and the Department of Indian Affairs for purpose of loan and guarantees of housing development and other municipal or public buildings. The CRA is offering this service with the collaboration of a specialized consulting firm. They are performed on "as needed basis" following a request by the local authorities.

2.Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Policies:

Environmental Impact assessment:

Support was provided primarily to two local projects: (a) the Bank stability project in Waskaganish and (b) the Incinerator for Solid Waste in Wemindji. The first project was granted exemption from impact assessment following a submission to the Evaluating Committee demonstrating that the positive impacts of this project greatly outweighed the negative impacts to be felt during the construction period and that mitigation measures could address these. The second project consisted first in assessing existing technologies for small size communities and most of all assessing their environmental performance. The project impact statement will be reviewed under the authority of the Local Environment Administrator with the assistance of the review panel in early summer 2002.

Environmental policy development: Enforcing the federal review process under section 22 of the JBNQA (a response to Bill C-19).

A key environmental policy document was prepared jointly by the CRA and the GCC (with the collaboration of Mr. Franklin Gertler, legal advisor) regarding the revision by House of Commons of the federal legislation on the Canadian environmental assessment procedure. A detailed brief was submitted in February 2002 to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The brief was very critical towards the federal government and its implementation of section 22. That part of it that functions minimally, the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment is not accorded its proper role in policy formation and is under-funded. It was concluded that Canada denies that federal assessment can be triggered under section 22 and instead imposes the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the Cree Territory in violation of the section of the JBNQA.

The brief did not demand a "separate approach", but rather implementation of the applicable federal regime of social and environmental protection, i.e. that provided for by and in accordance with Section 22. It insisted that the Cree position must not be confused with that of provinces or industry interests who wish to effectively eliminate federal assessment in favour of the sole application of provincial regimes. On the contrary, the Crees insist on federal assessment under the applicable law, i.e. the E&SIA procedure in Section 22 of the JBNQA. This is required under the JBNQA as paramount federal law and as a matter of constitutional right.

It was recommended to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (after section 7) to consider the followings:

7.1 (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other law, the environmental and social protection regime, including the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure, applicable to a project which might affect the environment or people of the part of Eeyou Istchee defined in paragraph 22.1.6 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, shall be as established by and in accordance with Section 22 thereof.

Federal jurisdiction

(2) For greater certainty and without prejudice to the possibility of resort to combined review by agreement in accordance with paragraph 22.6.7 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, it is declared that a project subject to environmental and social impact assessment and review pursuant to paragraph 22.5.1 or 22.5.5 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, shall, to the extent that it involves matters of federal jurisdiction and provincial jurisdiction, be deemed to be of joint or mixed jurisdiction falling within the jurisdiction of both Quebec and Canada and to engage, with respect to Canada, the responsibilities of the federal Administrator and the Environmental and Social Impact Review Panel provided for respectively in paragraphs 22.1.1 and 22.6.4 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.


(3) Further to subsection (1) and notwithstanding anything else in this Act or any other law, with respect to a project within the part of Eeyou Istchee defined in paragraph 22.1.6 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement or which might affect the environment and people thereof, no environmental assessment or assessment of environmental effects is required or may be carried out by or in accordance with this Act.

Incorporation by reference

(4) Where, but for subsection (3), an environmental assessment or assessment of environmental effects under or in accordance with this Act would be required with respect to a project within the part of Eeyou Istchee defined in paragraph 22.1.6 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement or which might affect the environment and people thereof, that project shall be deemed to be development contemplated in paragraph 22.5.1 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement unless it is contemplated in paragraph 22.5.2 thereof.

3. Special projects:

A number of projects were initiated in 2001-2002 or were in their second phase of development. All these projects are conducted in collaboration with researchers from universities or with specialized consulting firms. Those projects are:

Development of the Local Environment resource web site:

In April 2001, the CRA received confirmation that partial funding (50%) was granted by HRDC- Office of Learning Technologies to go ahead with a two-year project involving the development and evaluation of a pilot resource website designed to facilitate the work of the Local Environment Administrators (LEAs) in the Cree Communities. Some funding was later secured from the Capacity building program of INAC. The CRA and each of the local Cree governments are also important funding contributors. The website is designed to support the LEAs by providing an information resource on relevant environmental management issues that are key to the roles that LEAs play in their communities. The expected benefits are:

Based on the information gathered during the Needs Assessment, decisions were made regarding the content, organization, visual presentation and evaluation of the website. The following table presents a summary of the website design and evaluation activities:


Design/ Development



Fall 2001

Website structure and organization

Web structure chart (See Appendix 1)

Web structure chart evaluation

Website visual Presentation

Welcome page and general visual design of website

Consultation with LEAs

Menus and submenus

Menu's visual design and structure


Development of content

Web tree


February 2002

Content and interactive features implemented in the website

First version of the website with content and interactive features in place.


March 2002



Pilot Evaluation of the website

April 2002

Final revisions and preparation of training materials

Revised version of the website


May-June 2002

Launching of the website

Launching meeting with LEAs and training session

Training session evaluation

Summer-Fall 2002

Monitoring of implementation

Implementation and maintenance plan

Implementation and continuous evaluation

The website menu allows the user to access information related to each of the environmental functions of the LEAs, as identified in the Environmental Code of Practice that was developed in 1998 by the CRA with the support of EEM. Inc. Two of the ten (10) environmental functions are included in the project; they are:

Drinking water

This section examines the LEA's role in monitoring the quality of the community's drinking water and in reporting the results to the public and other stakeholders. It presents the procedures used to detect contamination and the safeguards the LEA uses to ensure public health.

Review of major projects subject to an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) (JBNQA, s.22)

This section examines the role of the LEA in the ESIA process. Under Section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), projects in Northern Quebec may be subject to assessment and review. This section establishes an environmental and social protection regime designed to minimize the developments negative effects on the Cree people, economies, and wildlife resources.

Environmental databases:

We completed with the collaboration of Dessau-Soprin (and the funding of INAC) the input of thousands of data (from laboratory analysis) on soil and groundwater contamination collected since 1993 in some 130 studies carried out across the nine (9) Cree communities. All data are linked to a geo-referenced database. Digitized maps of all the communities were included and all borehole locations can be shown on color maps. Customized color maps (81/2 x 11) can be designed and printed to illustrate a range of contamination issues particular to each site or community. The challenge now is to continue the updating and development of the database.

The second database is a compilation of two sources of data regarding the hunting, fishing and trapping regime. These are: (a) wildlife harvest data collected by the CTA since 1989 and (b) Income Security Program (ISP) data collected since 1978 (only official published data are compiled in the database). In 2001-2002 we proceeded with the second annual update of these databases with the technical support of graduate students from INRS-Urbanisation (Culture et Société), under the direction of Professor Carole Lévesque.

Community empowerment in action; Elaboration and experimentation of a strategy to promote and facilitate access to environmental knowledge:

This project is in part funded under the Northern Ecosystem Initiative of Environment Canada. It is done in collaboration with INRS-Urbanisation (Culture et Société), the Centre d'Études Nordiques (Université Laval), the Innu of Matimekosh and Makivik Corporation.

This two-year project addresses a pressing need for new mechanisms to provide Northern Native communities with a better access to research information on the environment. It falls in line with the results of an earlier survey on environmental issues conducted in Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui in October 2000 (59 people surveyed). The project team will develop and implement a bi-directional strategy for access to information and specific measures with a view to set the foundation of a functional centralized system of access to scientific and Native environmental knowledge for the benefit of northern communities and other stakeholders. The project will count with the participation of NEI targeted communities and research organizations involved in Northern Québec. Through consultation, participatory research and the use of new information technologies, the project will enhance northern communities' capacity to manage environmental resources and environmental information, while improving communication between all stakeholders. A progress report on the first year of the project will be submitted in July 2002.

Participatory research: the role of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) in decision-making:

This is a three-year collaborative research project. A preliminary survey was conducted in Waskaganish in summer 2001 with students from the community, under the direction of a senior anthropologist who had previously worked with the Dene Cultural Institute on TEK. This research project is conducted by INRS Culture et Société (a subsidiary of Université du Québec) and is done in collaboration with the CRA and the Cree First Nations of Waskaganish and Whapmagosstui. It is funded by the National Research Council (Social Sciences). A draft report entitled "Taking Care of the Land" was prepared.

Design of a protocol on access and dissemination of First Nations wildlife harvest data of northern Quebec:

Environment Canada launched a new initiative three years ago called the Northern Ecosystem Initiative (NEI). It was established in recognition of the need to have a specific focus on sensitive ecosystems of Northern Canada, with particular attention to the desire of Northerners to be involved. Biodiversity, climatic change, impact of major projects and contaminants are the main themes. A Steering Committee was created for the NEI. It is composed of representatives from Environment Canada, the Inuit (Kativik Regional Government), the Innu of Matimekosh, the Naskapi, the Cree (Cree Regional Authority), the Centre d'Études nordiques, the GETIC, INAC, the Québec Wildlife Agency (FAPAQ) and Hydro-Québec. The approach of the Committee is one of consensus building and open sharing of information.

Environment Canada mandated the Cree Regional Authority in early March 2002 to develop a draft protocol that would address the issues of access, use, and dissemination of information on wildlife harvest data collected in the communities. Environment Canada supported this project to help promote sharing of information with regards to wildlife and its management. Data on wildlife populations and wildlife harvesting form key components of any wildlife management schemes or strategies and thus can benefit all those concerned. The consulting firm of Confluences Recherche Conseil was hired for this project.

In order to develop the draft, a survey was conducted among the peoples involved in wildlife management with the aboriginal communities of Northern Quebec. This report presents the results of this survey. The purpose of that survey was to collect information on the following themes:

In addition to the survey, the research team conducted a brief literature review on the question of Intellectual property of Indigenous Peoples and Wildlife data collection in aboriginal communities in Canada. Documenting existing data collection systems, although in a summary fashion, was motivated by the idea that the NEI needed to build upon community-based systems rather than start anew. It was also assumed that, where such systems existed, even when rudimentary in nature, protocols or at least some guiding principles might already be in place.

The second part of the report proposes a discussion on protocol design and elaborates on the principle that should guide the design of a protocol between government agencies and aboriginal organizations or communities. The final report will be completed in summer 2002.