The Grand Council of the Crees

Submission of Grand Chief Matthew Mukash to the Cree Naskapi Commission

April 2008

Posted: 2008-03-31

This is an historic moment in the history of the Cree Nation. With the signing of the Agreement Concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee (Referred to as the "New Agreement" in this text.) we have resolved certain important long-standing issues that arose from the past federal implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). With this agreement and the 'Paix des Braves Agreement' signed with the Government of Quebec in 2002, the Crees are increasingly able to focus their efforts on improving the present situation of the Cree People and on defining the future of the Cree Nation. The New Agreement with Canada calls for the following:

  1. It sets out a process for the recognition of a new Cree Nation Government, a form of regional government to be discussed with Canada and Quebec over the three to five years following the coming into force of the New Agreement.
  2. In the interim, this agreement sets out a regime for the administration of the programs to implement the obligations of Canada assumed by the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority for the term of the agreement.
  3. The New Agreement calls for Canada is to recognize additional powers of the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority through amendments to the Cree/Naskapi (of Quebec) Act and also through certain powers delegated by Canada through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act and through the Fisheries Act.
  4. It resolves the court actions that we had taken out against Canada on its non-implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and on certain related matters. It is a future oriented agreement in that the funding was largely based on the future needs of the Cree Nation in respect to the obligations of Canada assumed by the Crees under its terms.
  5. The New Agreement (5.8) calls for a process to make certain amendments to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement:
    1. To section 2.15 (JBNQA) to allow future amendments to the JBNQA to be made without the consent of parties when they do not affect their interests and to ratify any past such amendments that might have been made;
    2. To section 3 (JBNQA), eligibility, similar to the Inuit changes agreed to by all parties to the JBNQA under Complementary Agreement number 18;
    3. To section 4 (JBNQA) and related sections, to incorporate the final territorial descriptions of Cree Category I lands.
    4. A complimentary Agreement will be negotiated with Canada on the designation of a Cree Regional Administrator of the Environment under section 22 of the JBNQA, to have powers in respect to projects to be built on category 1A lands.
    5. The CRA will enter into a tripartite complimentary agreement to the JBNQA with Canada and Quebec that would replace Section 19 of the treaty with a new section that will, among other things, replace the concepts of "Cree Units of the Québec Police Force" and "Cree Local Community Police Force" as currently provided for in sub-sections 19.1 and 19.2 of the JBNQA by a new concept of "Cree Regional Police Force". We will also enter into a tripartite funding agreement to implement this new treaty arrangement.

Phase I: Amendments to the Cree/Naskapi (of Quebec) Act to Strengthen Cree Governance and the Assumption of Federal Obligations by the Crees

As the subject of the amendments to the Cree/Naskapi Act must be of primary importance to you, the Commission in charge of oversight of the implementation of the Act, I will review the amendments to be proposed. These proposals will be further set out in the formal amendments that will be developed in consultation with the Crees and other affected parties.
The Proposed Amendments:

  1. To section 6 to provide that by-laws of the CRA under the Act apply on Category IA land and on Category III land enclaves within 1A land; to Sections 8 and 9 so the by-laws of the CRA can be effective, new objects will also be added so that the CRA can act as a regional government authority on Category IA land:
    • can establish regional standards on essential sanitation facilities, housing and to regulate for regional purposes buildings on Category IA lands;
    • to empower the CRA under the Act to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets;
    • to promote the welfare of the Cree beneficiaries and Cree bands; and
    • to promote and preserve the culture, values and traditions of the Cree beneficiaries and the Cree bands;
  2. New sections providing for the CRA to assume federal responsibilities under the JBNQA or any other agreement, authority or program as agreed-to;
  3. New sections providing the CRA with regional by-law-making powers for establishing regional standards on Category IA land in areas where the Cree bands currently have such powers under the Act, to be amended as follows:
        1. 45 (1) (b), regulation of buildings for public health and safety, - construction, maintenance, repair and demolition of buildings, but only for housing and buildings for regional governance;
        2. 45 (1) (c), only with respect to essential sanitation facilities and housing;
        3. 45 (1) (d), only respecting: the establishment, maintenance and operation of fire departments;
        4. 45 (1) (e), respecting the protection of the environment, including natural resources; and
        5. 45 (1) (f), respecting the prevention of pollution;
  4. A new section providing the CRA with by-law making powers for regional standards on Category IA lands respecting essential sanitation;
      1. a section that the CRA's regional standards for sanitation facilities, essential sanitation, housing, fire departments, regional buildings, environmental protection and pollution must meet or exceed federal and provincial standards;
  5. A new section so that a CRA by-law will prevail over a band by-law to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict between the two;
  6. A new section providing that the adoption process for CRA by-laws under the Act shall be through a resolution of the Council of the CRA;
  7. A new section providing that the powers of the CRA under the Act cannot affect, modify or prejudice any rights, or benefits of:
        1. the Inuit beneficiaries of the JBNQA;
        2. the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach or Naskapi beneficiaries of the Northeastern Quebec Agreement;
        3. the Inuit of Fort George;
  8. A new section to provide for a publicly accessible register of CRA by-laws under the Act, that a copy of the by-laws be posted in a public place in the Cree communities, and that a copy be sent to the Minister;
  9. I. A section in the Act providing that interested persons may challenge by-laws of the CRA, adopted under the Act, in the Provincial or Quebec Superior Courts;
  10. An amendment to paragraph 90 (2) (c) to provide that a copy of the annual budgets of Cree band be sent not only to the Minister, as is now the case, but also to the CRA, and an amendment to sub-section 91 (2) to provide that in addition to those already listed, the CRA or any person authorized by the CRA may inspect the books of accounts and financial records of a Cree band;
  11. an amendment to sub-section 93 (5) to provide that, where delegated by the Minister and accepted by the CRA, the CRA may appoint a new auditor for a band and fix his/her remuneration when a band fails to act pursuant to sub-section 93 (4) of the CNQA;
  12. An amendment to sub-section 94 (2) to add the CRA as a recipient of the notification from a Cree band auditor of a late financial report;
  13. An amendment to section 100 to provide that the CRA receive a copy of any written notice of intention by the Minister to appoint an administrator;
  14. An amendment to sub-section 138 (1) to add the CRA as a party to be consulted before permitting a person other than those already enumerated in the Act to develop a project of a regional or provincial nature on a Cree band's Category IA land;
  15. An amendment to section 139 to provide that a Cree band shall allocate land necessary for the CRA services and activities;
  16. An amendment to section 166 to add the CRA to the list of those to whom the Cree-Naskapi Commission shall give a notice when referred to in a representation that it decides to investigate;
  17. Amendments to sub-sections 190 (1) and (2) to add that the property of a beneficiary or band on Category IA land, including any interests that a beneficiary may have to land may be subject to privilege, hypothec or any other charge, or to attachment, levy, seizure or execution, in favour of or at the order of the CRA, in the same manner as is provided for a Cree band;
  18. Replacement of section 194 to provide that the Eeyou-Eenou Police force under the CRA has jurisdiction over the Category IA land of the Cree bands for the purpose of enforcing the applicable laws of Canada and Québec and the applicable by-laws of the Cree bands and of the CRA;
  19. An amendment to section 196 to provide that, when an agreement for police services referred to in that section involves a Cree band, the prior approval of the CRA must also be obtained in order for that agreement to be validly entered into;
  20. Amendments to sub-sections 199 (1) and (2) of the CNQA to add that contraventions of a CRA by-law adopted pursuant to that Act are offences under the CNQA subject to the same conviction mechanisms and punishments as provided in those sub-sections with regard to contraventions of Cree band by-laws;
  21. Any consequential amendments to other Acts of Parliament and to regulations or orders adopted pursuant to the Act or pursuant to any other Act of Parliament as may be required to render effective the amendments to the Cree/Naskapi (of Quebec) Act set out in this Agreement.
  22. In addition to the above, we accept in the New Agreement that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and is enforceable in respect to the responsibilities and related powers of Canada that we will assume, but only to the extent that Canada would have been bound by such rights if the obligations of Canada had not been assumed by the Crees. We do this so as to protect the rights of individuals as citizens of Canada but we do not accept that such individual rights should unduly affect the collective rights of the Crees as an aboriginal people in a treaty relationship with the governments of Canada and Quebec.
  24. Canada agrees to provide ample time to consult with the GCC(EI)/CRA during the drafting of the amendments called for by the Agreement. Canada will meet with and consult the GCC(EI)/CRA and will also consider submissions with regard to the fidelity of the proposed amendments with the text of the New Agreement.
  25. The GCC(EI)/CRA and Canada agree to consult, during the drafting of the amendments, with the Inuit of Fort George through Makivik Corporation and with the Naskapis through the Band Council of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach.

Obligations of Canada Assumed by the Crees
The New Agreement sets out in detail which of the federal obligations under the JBNQA the Crees assume to implement for the 20 year term of the agreement, with the funding provided. What is not indicated as "assumed", will not be implemented by the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority. Hence, the determination of what is or is not assumed is an important aspect of evaluating this agreement. The continuation of the annual amounts of funding received from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for "A base" capital funding and the continuation of the Operation and Maintenance funding in force on the signing of the New Agreement are essential to the Crees being able to provide the services assumed under this agreement. In addition, the regular program arrangements for Cree Human Resources Development and for the funding of the various associations provided for in Chapter 28 are to be continued as a condition of the assumptions. As the New Agreement states, what is covered by the Agreement is the "...federal share of capital costs, operations and maintenance (including insurance), and programs and services, as applicable, for the Term of this Agreement respecting the items listed under the following provisions of the JBNQA":

  1. Section 18, regarding Administration of Justice (Crees), subject to Section Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement; - no assumption of costs for justices of the peace, for amendments to the criminal code, for penitentiaries or incarceration facilities or services
  2. paragraph 24.3.24, sub-paragraph 28.4.1 a) and Sub-section 28.5, regarding the Cree Trappers' Association ("CTA"), subject to Section Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement; - assumption of this obligation is subject to continuedannual funding sub-paragraph 28.4.1 b), and Sub-section 28.6 regarding the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association ("COTA"), subject to Section Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement; - assumption of this obligation is subject to continued annual funding
  3. sub-paragraph 28.4.1 c), and Sub-section 28.7 regarding the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association ("CNACA"), subject to Section Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement; - assumption of this obligation is subject to continued annual funding paragraphs 28.9.1 and 28.9.2 regarding training courses, job recruitment and placement related to Territorial Programs and Enhanced Delivery Structure;
    paragraphs 28.9.1 regarding training facilities and 28.9.5 regarding Manpower offices; - Continuedfunding for HRD services at levels reasonably comparable to that to be provided for 2008-2009 will continue outside of this agreement and no costs related to the Waswanipi Training Center are assumed.
  4. sub-paragraph 28.11.1 a) regarding the construction or provision of a community centre in each Cree community;
  5. sub-paragraph 28.11.1 b) regarding essential sanitation services in each Cree community;
  6. sub-paragraph 28.11.1 c) regarding fire protection, including training of Crees, the purchase of equipment and the construction of facilities in each Cree community; and - The amounts provided through the Operations and Maintenance Agreement (2008) will continue, as adjusted up to the end of fiscal year 2007/2008 for volume increases and therafter these amounts will only be adjusted for population increases and price adjustments..
  7. paragraph 28.11.2 regarding the provision of an Economic Development Agent in each Cree community and community affairs services.

The New Agreement brings a new level of security to our financial relationship with Canada but it also requires us to be vigilant and thorough in how we implement the obligations of Canada that we assume under the Agreement so as to protect the rights on which these obligations are based. In parallel with the signing of the New Agreement we also renewed the five-year capital and operations and maintenance agreements by which we have received grants from Canada and will continue to receive such grants in the future.

Phase II: The Development of the Cree Nation Government

While the adoption of the amendments to the Cree/Naskapi (of Quebec) Act is being completed, as briefly described above, and while the negotiations regarding the other delegations of authority from Canada are being completed, we will begin a process of discussion, internally among the Crees communities and also with the governments of Canada and of Quebec in respect to Phase II of Cree Nation building.
The first item in the negotiation process will be to set the agenda with Canada and Quebec of the areas of jurisdiction and authority to be dealt with in the discussions. The basic principles of this new form of government will be set out in the agenda for discussions and also in the Cree constitution that will be developed by the Crees in parallel. The Agreement with Canada on Cree Nation Government will come into force at the same time as the new Cree constitution comes into force or after it as it is essential that the two are consistent with one another. It is intended that the Cree Constitution include as a minimum the following matters:

Elements of the Cree Nation Constitution

  1. law enactment procedures, including publication;
  2. leadership selection;
  3. political accountability of leaders to their members;
  4. financial management and accountability;
  5. internal appeal and redress mechanisms;
  6. structures and procedures of government;
  7. conflict of interest;
  8. public consultations;
  9. voting and referenda;
  10. access to information;
  11. amending formula; and
  12. other essential matters as negotiated.

It is intended that we develop our new form of government on the foundation of the present Cree government, as we want retain the lessons from the recent past, while bringing in new elements that will provide for the future of the Cree Nation. The Agreement sets out a preliminary list of other elements to form the basis of discussions with Canada and Quebec. These include the following:

  1. process for approval of the Governance Agreement and the Cree Constitution;
  2. legal status of the Governance Agreement and correlative amendments to the JBNQA;
  3. the level of ratification by the Crees, having regard to the legal status of the Governance Agreement and correlative amendments to the JBNQA;
  4. amendment procedures for the Governance Agreement and the need to consult the Crees before making any amendments to the Governance Legislation;
  5. application of various federal or provincial laws;
  6. the relationship of Cree Nation Government laws to the laws of other governments, including those of the Cree bands;
  7. inter-governmental dispute resolution mechanisms;
  8. competent court for judicial review;
  9. creation of new Cree bands and Cree band amalgamations;
  10. repatriation of Cree artefacts;
  11. measures for addressing international legal obligations of Canada;
  12. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  13. structure and operation of the Governance Agreement and related key elements of the Governance Legislation;
  14. fiscal relations between Canada and the Crees, including financial reporting to Canada;
  15. tax treatment matters;
  16. annual report by the Cree Nation Government;
  17. delegation of powers;
  18. legal status and capacity;
  19. exemption from seizure of assets;
  20. compulsory notice with respect to constitutionality and judicial notice;
  21. geographical scope of powers;
  22. own source revenues;
  23. clarification of the respective roles of the Cree Nation Government in relation to those of the Cree bands, the GCC(EI) and the CRA and the identification of any
  24. other potential impact on the CNQA and the JBNQA;
  25. identification of any required consequential amendments to other legislation;
  26. implementation, including principles for development and content of an implementation plan for the Governance Agreement and Governance Legislation, and
  27. transition measures;
  28. a review of the role of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, and particularly having regard to avoiding duplication with processes or bodies provided for under this Agreement or the Governance Agreement; and
  29. in the event that the Cree Nation Government exercises Jurisdiction or Authority over individuals who are not Crees and who are residing on Category I lands, mechanisms will be developed to ensure that such individuals may have input into, and rights of redress respecting decisions of the Cree Nation Government that will affect their rights and interests.

You will note that the geographic scope of powers is one of the subjects for discussion. On the one hand, we want to develop a form of Cree Nation and/or regional governance that will fit the present structure of power and authority in Canada and in Quebec. On the other hand, the parties must take into account their treaty commitments and the reality that the Crees are not "Indians on Reserve" set up by the colonial regimes put in place by Canada in the 1800's largely by the Department of the Interior. The Crees are citizens of Quebec and Canada recognized by a treaty signed by both of those levels of government. We want participation in Quebec and in Canada via the development of our traditional lands. One might say that we want to become part of Quebec and Canada not just as individuals but as the Cree Nation still living on our ancestral lands. Needless to say these discussions will be complex. In the Agreement we aim at an agreement-in-principle within 3 years and a final agreement within 5 years.


The Agreement came into force when Parliament appropriated the funding, that is, when it voted in favour of the last budget. The first payment has now been received, as has the funding ($50,000,000) for the resolution of certain community matters.

  1. upon coming into force of this Agreement, an amount of ONE BILLION AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS ($1,050,000,000) (the "First Payment");
  2. within thirty (30) days of Royal Assent of the amendments to the CNQA contemplated in Part 1 of Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement, an amount of ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS ($100,000,000) (the "Second Payment"); and
  3. within thirty (30) days of Royal Assent of the Governance Legislation contemplated in Part 2 of Error! Reference source not found. of this Agreement, an amount of TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS ($200,000,000) (the "Third Payment")

When Phase I of the Cree Nation government program is completed, by the passage by Parliament of the proposed amendments to the Cree/Naskapi (of Quebec) Act and other Laws, the second payment will be made. The third payment is due when Parliament passes the Cree governance legislation, in 3 to 5 years.
When the Agreement is to be renewed, the Government of Canada and the Crees will take into account how the money was spent over the course of the Agreement, the socio-economic conditions and demographic situation of the Crees, capital facilities and operations and maintenance programs provided over the term of the agreement, the nature of the obligation under the JBNQA, as well as other factors.
We have established a Cree Nation Trust that will ensure that the funding is used to implement the obligations assumed by the Crees from Canada. The expenditure plan is for the funding to be exhausted over the period of the Agreement as the amounts were negotiated on the basis of the projected cost of implementing the obligations that Canada proffered for the Crees to take over.

Other Matters
Community Specific Matters
The Community Specific Agreement settled the outstanding claims against Canada of the communities of Wemindji - related to their access road, Waskaganish - related to electrification and of Oujé Bougoumou, related to their exclusion as a community from James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Washaw Sibi
The New Agreement states that Canada will not assume any of the costs capital or operations costs of the recognition of any new Cree community. It is therefore up to the Crees to decide how they will support this initiative.

Dispute Resolution
The New Agreement sets up a conflict resolution process that allows for mediation or for arbitration but that preserves the right of the parties, after due procedure, to refer matters to the courts.

Standing Liaison Committee
Canada and the Crees will appoint members to a Liaison Committee that will attempt to resolve disputes and resolve problems as they arise. The appointees from each side will be high ranking members of their respective administrations. This committee will attempt to hold joint meetings with the Cree-Quebec Liaison Committee from time to time as the parties agree to this. It will also involve other parties when required to settle issues.

The New Agreement releases Canada from all of the legal actions and claims made in them taken out by the Crees against Canada except the Vanadium Proceedings that are in the court of Appeal at the present time and the Mocreebec Proceedings that are not under Cree control. It also indemnifies Canada for any claims made against it in respect to its past implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, up to the moment of the coming into force of the New Agreement.


I append a copy of the New Agreement and of a summary of the New Agreement that were provided to the Cree People during the course of local consultations that were held in August and September of 2007. In each of the Cree communities including Washaw Sibi and also in Montreal, Val d'Or, and Gatineau information meetings were held during which a detailed presentation of the New Relationship Agreement was presented and the audience was invited to ask questions. In every place the negotiation team was available to answer questions and the proceedings were broadcast on the radio in the Cree communities and were recorded for the record. The explanations given included the referendum process that was in fact overseen by a committee made up of two representatives nominated by the Grand Council and two by the Government of Canada. The referendum was announced in newspapers in the territory as well as in the major newspapers in Canada. The process allowed for mail-in ballots that were made available for the period of two months prior to the main polling period that started the first week of October. Registered beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of the age of 18 years as of the last day of the balloting, (October 12, 2007) were allowed to vote. Before the beginning of the public consultations and of the balloting period, information was made available on how to apply for registration of beneficiary status.

The vote resulted in a 53.6% turn-out of the Cree voters of which 90.17% voted in favour of signing the Agreement Concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

In the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement there was a promise in Section 9 that there would be federal legislation to implement a form of what was then known as "local government" over category 1A lands. In section 10, local government over category 1B lands is set out as as Cree municipal authorities recognized in Quebec law. There was also recognition of the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) set out in section 11A but the section actually accords it few regional government powers even though it was also legislated by Quebec. It provides for the CRA to name the representatives for the Crees to the various committees on social and environment impacts of future development, social and environmental policy, wildlife management and community and economic development. Other powers accorded by the Cree communities on category 1 lands to the CRA were also recognized as constituting part of the CRA's mandate. At the time there was reluctance on the part of Quebec and Canada to use the word "government" in reference to the CRA, however in its legislation recognizing the CRA, Quebec in fact incorporates the Cree word for the CRA, it states: "This legal person may also be designated by the name of "EEYOU TAPAYATACHESOO", in Cree, and of "Cree Regional Authority" in English" (see Cree Regional Authority R.S.Q. c. A-6.1). Other regional powers are recognized to the Crees in section 11B, which provides for Cree participation on the James Bay Regional Zone Council.

Recognition of Cree regional government powers was not described in detail in the JBNQA, but what was set out included areas of substantial importance for the future of the region and of the Cree communities and the parties fully expected the Cree participation in the governance of the whole territory to evolve as the institutions of government grew and as the Crees came to terms with the impacts of hydroelectric development and rapid culture change. It is now time for further evolution of Cree governance structures to take place.

The continued involvement of the Crees in the administration of the territory was already foreseen by Quebec in 1975. In the words of the Quebec negotiator of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Mr. John Ciaccia in his prologue to the Quebec Government's edition of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement entitled: "The Philosophy of the Agreement", he states:

"The Government of Quebec has taken the opportunity presented by these negotiations to reorganize the territory and to set up the institutions and structures that will give substance to the role that it intends to fulfill. The native communities will have local administrations, substantially in the manner of local communities throughout Quebec, and regional administrations will exercise municipal functions in areas beyond the old established communities. In districts inhabited by both native and non-native populations, Cree representatives and representatives of the Municipality of James Bay will form a joint administration to be known as the Zone Council.

Why do we want to do all this? Simply because there are people living in the North, who need public services, who are counting on good administration of their affairs, and who have a right to participate in that administration. The principles of sound and rational administration prompt us to act in this manner. The well-being and the interests of the people require that we do it.

I want to emphasize to Honorable Members that the Government of Quebec has rejected paternalism as a policy for dealing with the native peoples. That is one of the meanings that you can take from this Agreement. The Government proposes to deal with the native peoples as full-fledged citizens. I think it is fair to say that great care has been taken in the negotiation of this Agreement to see that nothing prejudices their rights as citizens. Quite the contrary. The native peoples are offered, with this Agreement, reasonable condition for the pursuit of their traditional occupations. They are offered the services that are available to all other citizens of Quebec in their own communities They are offered powers of local administration as great as those of other communities in Quebec."
With Bill 40 the Regional Municipality of James Bay was set up on a new footing by the government of Quebec in 2001. This new footing however is by design one that denies the Crees their "right to participate" in the administration of the territory." Moreover, the standards have also progressed as it is now an internationally recognized right of aboriginal peoples to benefit from the resources on their traditional territories and to pursue their own political developments.

The coming years will test our own abilities as we search as the Cree Nation for new accommodations with the governments of Quebec and Canada. We will moreover challenge those around us who maintain the colonial attitudes that excluded aboriginal peoples in Canada from the economic, social and cultural development of their traditional territories. Once colonialism is broken by all sides, opportunities will open for the Cree people and indeed for all residents of the territory and of Quebec. There has already been significant progress through the efforts of many Cree individuals and Cree companies and because of the changing approaches on the part of Quebec and Canada and on the part of corporations to aboriginal involvement. A crucial component of our ability to build the Cree Nation will be our own efforts as parents and through our school and health boards to provide the means our youth need to face and take advantage of the challenges ahead. The local and Cree Nation governments will also have to plan for increasing developments of all types on the territory and ensure that our people are trained and ready to take part in these developments. The resources provided to the Crees in this New Agreement give us the financial means to take an important step in improving Cree control over the development of our communities and they are an opportunity to increase our participation in the governance of the lands around us.