OTTAWA (June 3, 1998) -- Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come of the James Bay Cree Nation and the Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are today launching the Cree-Canada Round Table. This historic event brings Ministers and Cree leaders together to promote discussion and to define and maintain a New Relationship between the James Bay Cree Nation and Canada and to advance the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), Canada's first modern treaty with Aboriginal peoples.
The Round Table, known in Cree as "Ochimawinch" or "the Leaders' Place," is designed to promote a government-to-government relationship between the James Bay Cree Nation and Canada, within the Canadian Constitution. Through this process, Canada will be working in partnership with the James Bay Cree, and with Quebec where necessary and possible, in the pursuit of shared objectives. While mindful of provincial obligations, the federal government recognizes its fiduciary relationship with the James Bay Cree Nation.
Today's first meeting in the Round Table process launches the New Relationship and establishes broad priorities for the Cree-Canada negotiations about to begin. The Round Table will facilitate the steps required to forge and maintain this New Relationship and pursue the joint implementation of the JBNQA.
Grand Chief Coon Come stated: "This is a very good and long overdue initiative. We intend it to lead to new respect for Cree rights in Canada, consistent with the highest standards. We must move forward into a New Relationship based on our full and meaningful inclusion in the Canadian social, economic, political, and constitutional landscape."
"I and my colleagues are proud to be part of the launch of the Cree-Canada Round Table on behalf of the Government of Canada," said Minister Stewart. "It's clear that the Cree and other Canadians share many of the same concerns: providing our children with healthy communities and improving economic opportunities so that they may thrive into the 21st century. It's positive to see Canada and the Cree working together in the spirit of mutual respect to build self-sustaining, self-governing Cree communities, consistent with the federal government's commitment to broadly renew the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada."
The Cree-Canada Round Table brings together Cree leaders and Ministers of the Government of Canada in a forum for cooperative dialogue designed to make the New Relationship a lasting reality and to reach agreement on what the Cree and Canada consider priorities for negotiation. The focus of the first meeting of the Cree-Canada Round Table is on sustainable economic and social development; healthy, secure and viable communities; and environmental and social protection.
Ministers Jane Stewart, Andy Scott (Solicitor General), Christine Stewart (Environment), Pierre Pettigrew (Human Resources), John Manley (Industry) and Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Children and Youth), representing Canada welcomed Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Deputy Grand Chief, Violet Pachanos and Cree Chiefs William Mianscum (Mistissini), Abel Bosum (Ouje Bougoumou), John Kitchen (Waswanipi), George Wapachee (Nemaska), Billy Diamond (Waskaganish), Kenneth Gilpin (Eastmain), Walter Hughboy (Wemindji), Charles Bobbish (Chisasibi) and Matthew Mukash (Whapamagoostui) at the launch of the Round Table.
All the federal government Ministers attending the Round Table agree on the significance of the launch of the Round Table and on the importance of efforts to maintain a New Relationship with the James Bay Cree Nation.
In the summer of 1995, the Government of Canada appointed Chief Federal Negotiator Michel Vennat to identify, with Cree Negotiator, Dr. Ted Moses, opportunities to move forward on the implementation of the JBNQA, as well as to discuss the establishment of a New Relationship. Following discussions between Canada and the Crees, both parties agreed to the establishment of the Round Table process.
Funding for this initiative is built into existing fiscal frameworks.
For further information contact:
Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)