I am truly pleased to be celebrating this Agreement. This Agreement represents an important opportunity for our people and Hydro-Quebec to put a difficult part of our history behind us. This does not mean we will not forget the problems of the past. You can be sure we will keep the lessons we have learnt and will always be vigilant in the protection of our rights and interests. But it is now time to move forward and to build a new relationship. We may have our differences and we may have difficulties, but we all know that the tide of history has, for better or for worse, tied our destinies together. We must now meet new challenges for a new generation.
At the beginning of my last term as Grand Chief, I always placed the recognition of the importance of solving past obligations with Hydro-Quebec as a condition to any discussions on any issue with Hydro-QuÃ©bec. I made a commitment that these issues would never be forgotten. During the community consultations on the "Paix des Braves" Agreement, I made a commitment to this community that we would not forget the concerns of Chisasibi, especially with regards to Dam safety. Arriving at an Agreement that gives us the opportunity to place our 25 years of arguing, pain and fear behind required the efforts of so many, to whom I am very grateful for their commitment.
First, I would like to thank the former Prime Minister of QuÃ©bec, Me Lucien Bouchard, for bringing his great skills as a statesman and mediator to the issues that separated us.
Second, I would like to thank the Cree Negotiating team led by Roderick Pachano for their commitment to the mandate. I gave Roderick Pachano a very difficult task that he completed to the benefit of the Cree nation. Thank you Rod. I would also like to underline the important contributions of both Bill Namagoose and Abel Bosum to this agreement.
I would also like to thank the Hydro-QuÃ©bec representatives led by Mr. Thierry Vandal who participated in the mediation, as well as the support of Mr. CaillÃ© for this process. This Agreement represents a major turning point in the attitude of Hydro-Quebec. This is the first Agreement between us that can be considered permanent in nature. I would like to thank Hydro-Quebec for having the courage to break with the habits of the past.
This Mediation was foreseen in the "Paix des Braves Agreement" and is a fulfillment of one of the many commitments set out two years ago with the Quebec government. Without the unconditional support to the "Paix des braves" by Prime Minister Jean Charest and Ministers like Minister Benoit Pelletier here, the new agreement with Hydro-QuÃ©bec/SEBJ would have been difficult if not impossible to achieve. The intervention of Mr. Daniel Bienvenue from the Quebec Executive Council was also essential to the successful resolution of the mediation process. Thank you to all of you.
I would like to thank all the Chiefs for their support in pursuing and maintaining this mediation process.
I wish particularly to thank the Cree people who, two years ago, had the courage and foresight to support the Cree leadership in taking a bold initiative with the Quebec government and entering into the "Paix des braves". This historic decision, this important leap of faith in the future decided by the Cree nation, has allowed us now to move forward with this new agreement with Hydro-Quebec.
This Agreement results in an end to the litigation between the Cree and Hydro-QuÃ©bec. We have traveled a long and difficult path to get here. However, we must be very aware that the real challenge is what lies ahead. With this Agreement, we have the opportunity and the hope of both parties to establish a new relationship based on partnership, cooperation and mutual respect. We must build trust where trust has been absent for so long. This will be difficult and will not happen overnight.
The new agreement calls for many things.
First it finally ensures that the safety concerns of the Crees, and particularly of the community of Chisasibi, are finally addressed in a concrete manner. Hydro-Quebec has agreed to clear safety commitments in this agreement, not least of which is the establishment of a safe-ground for the community of Chisasibi.
Second it sets up a long term and important funding mechanism to allow the Cree nation itself to have the means to deal with the long term impacts of the Complexe La Grande (1975). The Crees will receive and use an annual amount of $7 million indexed to CPI for the purpose of remedial and mitigation measures and other works and activities. This funding is not tied to any new project, and it will flow as long as the Complexe La Grande (1975) is in operation.
Third, Hydro-Quebec is committed to increase over time access to contracts for Cree enterprises resulting from the operation, maintenance, upkeep and repair of Le Complexe La Grande (1975). This should create new employment and business opportunities for the Cree nation.
Finally, and perhaps most important, the new agreement sets out a new spirit of reconciliation and partnership with Hydro-Quebec. We will in the future attempt to resolve our differences in new exchange forums. We will strive to respect our differences and to find mutually beneficial solutions to our differences.
We have to be vigilant not to fall into the trappings of the past.
We cannot be naive, we will always have difficult issues to discuss and we must be prepared for this.
The La Grande Project took us all by surprise, especially this community. I want to emphasize the key role played by the community of Chisasibi in reaching this new agreement. We all know that Chisasibi has been severely impacted by the Complexe La Grande (1975). During the mediation process, the members of this community held meetings with our mediator Mr. Bouchard. The community took a positive approach to the process and this greatly improved the chances of resolving our differences through the mediation process. When finally a tentative agreement was reached and Mr. Bouchard submitted his report, the community of Chisasibi strongly supported the solutions being proposed.
This is not to say that this community will forget the past. We have to begin healing. This agreement is part of this healing process. If we are to be as strong as our ancestors, we must begin to do what we can to help one another heal.
We must move forward. I want our future to be one of solutions where we focus on solutions to making our lives and the lives of our children safer and better.
We, the Cree, have achieved something momentous again. We can do this and we will continue to do this because we are a unified Nation, a strong Nation and a proud Nation.