The Grand Council of the Crees

Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses' presentation for the visit of Minister Mulcair and Minister Corbeil to the community of Ouje Bougoumou

Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses' presentation for the visit of Minister Mulcair and Minister Corbeil to the community of Ouje Bougoumou

Posted: 2005-05-17

I thank you Minister Mulcair and Minister Corbeil for coming to the community of Ouj? Bougoumou to make this important announcement of your government?s new policy on Sustainable Development. I also acknowledge and thank Chief Sam Bosum for the hospitality he and the community members have extended to all of us. The Crees of Eeyou Istchee know all about what it means to be ?sustainable?. For thousands of years our people have maintained a way of life on Eeyou Istchee that depended upon a continued and long lasting relationship with all aspects of the environment. Of course we used ways of managing and exploiting resources that relied upon an almost unchanging technology. When European-derived technologies arrived we used them to continue this way of life. We are now, years after the fur trade era, now working with Quebec to define how development will be done in the future. Development of course means ?unfolding? and implies the bringing out of previously hidden potentials. We have always seen our way of life on Eeyou Istchee as one of realizing the potentials of this land that we inherit from our ancestors. Development brings about change and poses the challenge of how we are to use these new found potentials. Our way of life has always served to provide for our people, so for us it is self evident that development should not only bring out new commodities, electricity, wood products and minerals, but that these should serve to improve our way of life and the way of life of Quebeckers. This was the reason that we signed the James Bay Agreement in 1975 and it is why we established a regime for the review of proposed projects that calls for assessment of project impacts on Cree society. We signed the New Relationship with Qu?bec, The Paix des Braves, to ensure that development served the needs of the Cree Nation. The spirit of the Agreement is in fact that the Qu?bec Nation and the Cree Nation should both benefit in an equitable manner from this development and cooperate in its realization. However, this is only one part of the story on sustainable development. The other part is equity. Until recently, especially here on Eeyou Istchee, it was not evident that development was for the benefit of the average person. In Qu?bec, as elsewhere in Canada, it took the force of people coming together in labour unions and also in political parties to force change to bring the benefits of development to the people. Out here at the end of the rail line and at the end of the roads such ideas have only recently come to us. In the 1970?s we had to come together as the Grand Council of the Crees ? Cree Nation Government, to make our views known and respected. We now see that the Government of Qu?bec is committed to sustainable development. This is reflected also in the Paix des Braves. It is manifest in the new forestry regime that requires that the Cree trappers be part of the decisions on how the forest is cut. It is also evident in the new cutting regime that sets aside lands and slows the rate of harvesting for environmental, social and cultural protection reasons. This is not only reflected in the New Relationship Agreement with the Crees, but also in other promising initiatives. By way of example we can look to the provincial targets on protected areas. Protected areas, or the setting aside of areas exempt from industrial development, implements the Principle of Conservation. The province has set of goal 8% of the land to be placed under protection and the Cree Nation has been working very hard to see that this target is met or exceeded in Eeyou Istchee. This percentage is in keeping with commitments made in many other places in Canada. Since the Paix des Brave Agreement was signed there have been six such areas established in the Waskaganish region. Additionally, Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou and Waswanipi have all tabled proposals for protected areas or parks with in their traditional lands. We have now begun the process of setting up what I will call the ?Assinica Cree Heritage Park? with the Community of Ouj? Bougoumou and the ?Albanel ? T?miscamie ? Otish Park? with the community of Mistissini. These are two concept parks that will integrate natural and cultural aspects in a way that will give Qu?bec a world first. In addition to this, six protected reserve areas are now being set up in the James Bay Lowlands near Waskaganish in cooperation with that community. Another positive indication that Qu?bec is further embracing a true definition of sustainable development is in the new Sustainable Development Policy initiative. As part of this policy, the Government may appoint a person who would be the equivalent of an Auditor General of the Environment. This is positive step forward and I think there is need for a parallel capacity to this to be developed for the Territory. We need to know if development, policies and programs are improving or degrading the environment and the impacted societies. We also need to know whether the remedial and compensatory measures applied to the impacts of such projects have worked or whether they have in themselves had further detrimental effects. Why do we need to know these things? It is so we can learn from past experience. We need to innovate to find solutions that work. Part of this innovation requires revitalizing the mechanisms that ensure our development continues to be sustainable. The 1975 regime that we set up for environmental and social protection was an innovation for its time. It preceded the environmental laws of Qu?bec and Canada and protects the environment and society in a more comprehensive fashion than some of the more recent legislation such as the Federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act or CEAA. However, the process needs to be improved and up-dated. The ambiguity created by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act must be resolved by removing that Act from the Territory. The James Bay Process needs to be more public and it needs to have accountability provisions that work. The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment clearly does not function as it was supposed to in the Treaty. What I propose to the Government of Quebec is that a bilateral Cree-Qu?bec process be established to review and up-date the Section 22 regime to bring it more into line with the demands and standards of a modern-day review process. What does this mean? The process needs to have an effective means of monitoring itself. Review documents must be made more available to the public so that all interested parties are more aware of what is going on in each review. The project list needs revision and should bring in elements of strategic environmental review. Where possible, plans upstream from development and proposed programs would be subject to review before they are implemented. This is essentially what already has begun in the new forestry process and we should apply it more widely. Environmental review needs to bring together traditional and scientific information and it must build upon the pre-existing knowledge base. This is why we need to build our own local research and learning institutions to back up our vision of where we want development to take us in the future. This is essentially how we would like to begin to fit into the plans that the Ministers are proposing today. We want to engage with these ideas in a way that supports our local vision of the future of Eeyou Istchee ? the James Bay Territory. Thank you once again for taking time to speak to us today. Meegwetch! Merci Beaucoup!