The Grand Council of the Crees

Premier Charest and Grand Chief Mukash in Agreement

Posted: 2006-03-24

Premier Jean Charest and Grand Chief Matthew Mukash have met today in Montreal. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since Grand Chief Mukash's election on September 16th, 2005. Both leaders have confirmed that they wish to maintain a harmonious, productive and long term relationship between the Crees and Québec. They also addressed some recent concerns and misunderstandings related to the EM1A/Rupert River Diversion environmental review process. The meeting has given both leaders an opportunity to put to rest these misunderstandings and to resolve any uncertainties.

Even though they are not signatories to the Paix des Braves, both men recognize that it is a cornerstone to the building of a positive relationship between the Cree Nation and Québec. Both the Grand Chief and the Premier recognize that the Paix des braves was approved and signed by both parties, and thus neither has any intention of repudiating this agreement.

The Grand Chief and the Premier must now build on this agreement to ensure a better future for both Québec and the Cree Nation. The Cree leadership recognizes that one of the main objects of the Paix des Braves Agreement was to resolve issues relative to the application of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) signed in 1975. Both leaders acknowledged that the signing of the Paix des braves includes the consent to the EM1A/Rupert River diversion. They recognized also that the proposed project is subject to an environmental review assessment under section 22 of the JBNQA and all other applicable environmental regimes. The Grand Chief reassured the Premier that the Grand Council of the Crees will, in this process, reiterate the commitment of the Crees to the Paix des Braves and that the Crees will fully participate in the ongoing environmental and social impact assessments to EM1A/Rupert diversion. Both leaders further confirmed that Cree concerns relating to the environmental and social impacts of the proposed project must be taken into account as contemplated by the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. The Cree leadership and Québec will abide by and fully respect the review process as a valid process.
Furthermore, the Grand Chief and the Premier formally undertook to resolve, without further delay, all outstanding issues that the parties agreed were to be resolved in the three years following the coming into force of the Paix des braves, including but not limited to Cree regional policing, implementation of the justice provisions of the JBNQA and the resolution of the Ouje-Bougoumou/Mistissini land transfer.

The Premier and the Grand Chief also discussed the current negotiations between the Crees and the Federal government. Those negotiations aim at concluding an agreement to resolve outstanding issues between both parties relating to the application by the Federal government of the JBNQA. Those disagreements resulted in lawsuits tabled by the Crees against the Federal government, lawsuits that are still in the courts as of today.
The Premier indicated to the Grand Chief that Québec is very supportive of the efforts of both the Crees and the Federal government to resolve those issues and to reach an agreement. The Premier also expressed keen interest in one of the main aspects of the negotiations, namely discussions on a concept of self-government by the Crees by which the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority would gradually be given Federal JBNQA responsibilities over Category 1 land. Grand Chief Mukash indicated to the Premier that both the Crees and the Federal government conduct this negotiation with the clear understanding that they will respect the spirit of the JBNQA, to which Québec is also a signatory, and the jurisdictions of Québec. Grand Chief Mukash also shared with the Premier the negotiations' vision of going further in self-governance for the Crees, with the participation of Québec.

The two leaders also shared their vision for the long-term development of the James Bay territory and agreed that sustainable development must be the guiding principle in the parties' actions on the land and that economic development must respect the environment and provide opportunities for the communities involved.

Grand Chief Mukash placed special emphasis on renewable energy projects, such as wind energy. Both leaders agreed that wind energy offered significant opportunities as a complement to hydroelectricity and have agreed that both Québec and the Crees would work together in reaching an agreement that would reflect these following principles:

  1. Joint evaluations would first be carried out to identify the best locations for wind energy production in the James Bay territory, with an emphasis on looking for ways to best optimize links between the large hydro reservoirs present on the territory and the potential wind energy sites.
  2. Based on those evaluations and the potential that would have been identified, a special wind energy project would be carried out by the Crees in collaboration with Hydro-Québec and in partnership with third parties.
  3. That eventual wind energy project would have to be financially sound, competitive as per price and socially and environmentally acceptable.

In conclusion, both leaders reiterated their common objective of maintaining strong and productive relationships between the Crees and Québec and their commitment to continue working together in developing the potential of the territory for the mutual benefit of both the Crees and Québec population in general.

Sources :

Hugo D'Amours
Attache de presse
Cabinet du premier ministre
(418) 643-5321

Bill Namagoose
Grand Council of the Crees
(613) 725-7024