The Grand Council of the Crees

Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees

Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) And the Cree Regional Authority To la Commission de l?am?nagement du territoire de l?Assembl?e nationale sur l??tude globale du d?veloppement de la r?gion Nord-du-Qu?bec [ The Commision on Territorial Management of the National Assembly on The Global Study of the Development of the Region of Northern Quebec ]

Posted: 1998-10-06

I thank the Parliamentary Commission for inviting the Grand Council of the Crees to participate in the hearings today. What I will say today is meant as a constructive comment on the relations between the Cree Nation and the Governments of Quebec and Canada. I hope that you will take the time to consider these comments and promote efforts by Quebec and Canada to change the course of development as it is presently proceeding. I will tell you that development is proceeding in the wrong direction. Please understand this as part of our effort to improve the situation for all parties. I also have some ideas about putting the development train on the right track.

For three hundred years after the initial arrival of Europeans to our shores, the Cree Nation participated in the larger world economy through the fur trade. While we were at times exploited as the providers of raw materials it is also true that we were able to continue our aboriginal practices and occupation of our lands through this period. These "practices" were not just a quaint aboriginal pastime. These activities were an economy that sustained our people, an industry on the land.

In the 1950s industrial development began to come to the Cree Territory in the form of mining and modest-scale forestry activities. Some Cree people obtained employment in these activities, which they combined with continuing their traditional way of life in the bush. Those most directly impacted by having their traditional family hunting territories in the path of development were pushed out of the way and continue to this day to suffer economic and social hardship as a result.

Early industrial development in the southern part of the Cree Territory did not respect the presence of the Crees in land-use and management decisions nor did it involve the Crees in development. The necessity of respecting high environmental standards and sharing the benefits of such development with the long-term permanent residents of the Territory was not recognized. The standards of the day were low. Cree involvement in development was marginal at best. The Crees experienced third-world conditions when they were in the Cree communities as there was no infrastructure to support the needs of the Cree population. At the time the promoters of resource development projects provided the infrastructure necessary for non-Cree workers who came from the south. To make way for even these communities for workers and their families, Cree communities were pushed out of the way. This was the classic colonialism found in the third world and elsewhere.

This situation continued until the early 1970s when the second wave of industrial development in the form of hydroelectric development came into the Cree Territory. Sadly, this invasion was done unlawfully and without our consent.

Mega hydroelectric developments brought massive environmental impacts and promised to displace the majority of the Crees from their traditional Cree hunting lands. This was once again development in the north to serve the south. While hydroelectric development built transportation infrastructure in the Territory, it was not built, as was the case in previous colonization, expressly to facilitate the movement of non-Cree families into the central and northern parts of the Cree Territory. The new type of development was based on the short-term presence of thousands of workers as required by the project construction. This was followed by company-owned facilities manned on a short-term rotational cycle by workers from southern Quebec.

The hydroelectric version of colonization as with the earlier colonization in the southern part of the Cree Territory has also excluded the Crees from involvement in the ongoing management of installations or the making of land-use decisions. Cree involvement after the construction of projects is limited to a minor role in decisions affecting the hunting, fishing and trapping. During project construction Crees have found employment in line cutting, clearing, rock washing, road construction and in some of the related support activities. However, the Crees have not been able to benefit to any appreciable extent from the long-term employment and ongoing revenue benefits created by the operation of hydroelectric projects. The profits of electrical energy production having been expropriated by the state in Quebec.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement

When hydroelectric development came in the early 1970s, we Crees organized to fight this threat to our way of life on Eeyou Istchee, the Territory. I will not repeat the history, except to say that after six months of testimony we received a decision from the Quebec Superior Court, which stopped the construction of the La Grande Project. This decision was first set aside by the Appeals Court in an unprecedented move and then overturned only one week later in a controversial decision which stated that even though Cree rights would be prejudiced, it was in the interests of the larger population of Quebec to continue with the construction of the project. Rather than continuing with the long procedures of the lower court, while the bulldozers destroyed our lands, we decided to negotiate. We negotiated the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement under the duress of ongoing and real impacts to our families and with our self-appointed fiduciary, the Government of Canada, taking a less than honourable position of "alert neutrality". This was of course the way they spin-doctored their violation of this fiduciary obligation to us through the whole negotiation process. In the eyes of the Cree Nation at that time, Quebec and Canada had ganged up against us.

The Agreement signed in 1975 set out a plan, now guaranteed by constitutionally protected Cree rights to set up the administration of the Territory, Eeyou Istchee, so that the Cree communities would be built by the Crees, with sanitary infrastructure, proper housing, safety facilities and all of the other amenities of a modern and isolated community. Look at the worker communities at the Hydro Quebec dam sites for an idea of the type of facilities and services that are required in such circumstances. The Agreement set out a regime for the protection of the Cree way of life and Cree rights and for the protection of the environment in the context of ongoing development. Crees were to be involved in land and wildlife management and protection. They were to be trained to take up jobs in development and given priority in contracts and employment opportunities. Special laws and regulations were to be developed with Cree involvement, to accomplish all of this.

After 1975 we proceeded to build our communities and to develop our governments. We have built over 1000 new houses and we have constructed sewer and water systems to serve these houses. In 1975 in Waskaganish there was one tap for a thousand people. Now there are thousands of taps in that community. In 1980 the raw sewage run-off from the communities was found to be entering the water supply and as a result children were made sick and some died from gastroenteritis. We brought this to the governments, and Canada was forced by public shame to work with the Crees to correct the situation. Where was Quebec? In spite of commitments in the Agreement, Quebec did not pay a cent towards this, being content with self-justifying excuses but no action. Many of our communities today have hockey rinks and I can say that we seem to have adopted hockey as our national sport.

Since the Agreement we have created Cree companies for the collective benefit of the Crees. These include Air Creebec, Servinor the food distribution company in Valdor, Valpiro the airport stevedoring company and Cree Energy which sells petroleum products. In addition to these we have Eeyou Transport, Kiba Transport, Waseskwun Airways, Air Wemindji, Mistuk Corporation and Nabakatuk sawmill, as well as hotels and stores of various sorts in all of the communities. Quebec has played an minor role in the investment in such initiatives to date. There is the beginning of a small private sector.

We also run our own Cree School Board, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services, Cree Human Resources Development, the Cree Trappers Association, the Cree Tourism Association etc. I could go on but I think that you can see that I am very proud of what the Cree people have accomplished by themselves, in cooperation with the Province of Quebec and in cooperation with the Government of Canada. I can even say that in cooperation with SEBJ we have carried out works on the sewer and water system in Chisasibi and with Hydro Quebec, carried out remedial works on the impacts of the La Grande Project. I would not go so far as to say that these works make the project damages acceptable to the Crees, they do not. But, without such works the situation would be worse.

The Cree Nation provides benefits not just the Crees but also to many non-Crees in the Territory as well. All of the millions of dollars spent over the years have been spent in Quebec and Canada. Money flows south often only too quickly. We want the money that flows into our communities to stay in the communities as long as possible. This is possible through local economic development and through the development of the local private sector. However it is also true that eventually the Cree money, which for all services (health, education, local and regional government and construction etc.) has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars since the Agreement, flows into Mattagami, Val d'Or, Chibougoumou, Chapais, Amos, Demaraisville, Lebel sur Quevillon, Montreal, Quebec city and so on and so on! It creates employment for all Quebecers. Without it, and without the Agreement which has been part of the cause of this, you would have much less developed Cree communities and you would have much poorer communities in the south of our region. There are some who might say that this has been as a result of hydro electric development. Not so, the development gave us the occasion to seek recognition for our rights, but it has been an ongoing battle with Canada and with Quebec to get those rights defined and implemented. Read the preamble to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement by Mr. John Ciaccia where he states that the measures undertaken in the Agreement in respect to the Cress and Inuit would have had to be done anyway.

Without our ongoing efforts over the years in the courts, in the public and international arena and in negotiation, the communities would be less developed than they are today, our human rights would be even less respected by the governments of Canada and Quebec. For all of those in the region our efforts should be seen as a means of not just attending to Cree rights but of creating economic activity in the Territory. The real importance of this to the whole Territory is more important than many economic initiatives and activities in the Territory today.

We are at an impasse today in the Cree communities. We have done much to develop our communities and we are not finished. There are more than one thousand Cree families who live without access to proper housing. The sewer and water systems will have to be expanded. The present means to accomplish this are not being made available by Canada or Quebec. Just the reverse is happening, funding cuts are worsening our capacity to meet the needs. Moreover there is a crisis in development in Eeyou Istchee. Forestry is clear cutting more than the land can sustain. There is a coming wood supply problem in Northern Quebec. Cree families, contrary to the promise of the 1975 Agreement are losing their hunting territories to the feller-buncher. Moreover, the Crees are not finding employment in the main development activities on the Territory. With the exception of the Waswanipi Sawmill and the Troilus Agreement on mining employment, there are no other significant doors open to Cree employment in Territorial Development. This is not what the Agreement of 1975 guaranteed. What has gone wrong?

In part, what has gone wrong has been the result of a lack of implementation of core parts of the Agreement. It has also been the result of the racially based attack which has gained support from the governments of Canada and Quebec in the Territory that has taken as its goal to develop the Territory through the promotion of the (quote) "occupation of the Territory" by the Quebecois. Why can the Province of Quebec not see the occupation of the Cree Territory, Eeyou Istchee, by the Crees as an occupation by citizens of the Province of Quebec? Does not our Treaty confirm this very fact? This same group claims that the Crees have relinquished their rights to the Territory except for the reserve lands. Not so!

In addition, the governments now assert that the Crees' rights to lands have been extinguished. We dispute this. In any case, we know that the concept of extinguishment itself is discriminatory and a breach of our human rights. We can only assume that our Québécois neighbours are not comfortable when their governments assert such doctrines.

Nevertheless, another form of extinguishment undeniably took place in our lands: the flooding of thousands of square kilometers of our traplines and the resulting severe impacts on our traditional economies and ways of life. The Agreement itself sets out a regime to ensure our survival, the sustainability of our society, and to guarantee our involvement in the development of the Territory.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement does contain many provisions which would in fact go a long way to bringing the Crees into development, but these have not been implemented. In 1983 when Canada reviewed its implementation of the Agreement and found itself to be wanting, it limited its corrective measures to the basic sanitation conditions in the communities. The secret decision of the Federal Cabinet told the federal officials not to implement the economic development aspects of the Agreement. Here is a brief overview of what both Canada and Quebec have failed to implement:

Section 22 provides for a regime for environmental protection over all categories of land. It creates joint Quebec-Cree, Quebec-Canada-Cree and Canada-Cree social and environmental review bodies to oversee the licensing of projects. The section also sets up a committee to oversee the process and recommend special legislation or regulations to governments in respect to the environmental protection and development over all categories of land in the Agreement. The principles of the regime set out in section 22.2.2 provide for: (and I quote)

This chapter provided for a means to sort out the different jurisdictions of the local Cree governments, the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada in regards to the Territory. Sadly, it must be stated that for more than 20 years the Governments of Quebec and Canada have systematically thwarted, circumvented and disobeyed the regime set out in the Agreement since the Agreement was signed in 1975.

For example, the Committee which was to oversee the regime and which was to monitor proposed legislation and itself propose legislation for the Territory has been denied the financial and human resources to carry out its mandate. As a result, over the past 23 years there has never been any serious review of laws, regulations or land-use plans nor has the committee put forward any proposals itself. How could it? It did not have the resources to do so.

Chapter 28 of the Agreement contains a permanent, broad, affirmative and remedial plan of action for the economic development and social well-being of the Crees. This plan includes community infrastructure and services, training, Cree economic development entities, assistance for affirmative Cree involvement in economic activities in the territory, employment initiatives, and assistance for the protection and advancement of Cree traditional pursuits.

Few if any of these essential promises have even got off the ground, and what meaningful economic development there has been, has not occurred as a result of attention to Chapter 28 but rather through our own necessarily limited efforts.

Look at section 28.10.4 for example where we find the clause which states: "Quebec and Canada shall take all reasonable measures, including but not limited to regulations, to establish priority to available and duly qualified local persons or entrepreneurs in respect to contracts and employment created by development in the territory." This is in a chapter on Cree economic and social development. Regulations are demanded by this clause among other measures but there have never been any regulations to establish such a priority.

As another example, the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure was established first and foremost to minimize the negative impacts of development on the native peoples and also on the wildlife resources of the Territory. What has happened since the signature of the Agreement? Whenever a project is subject to review it is the regulations and laws of Quebec and Canada only with respect to the environment that guide the assessment. The promised regime to deal with the social impacts and opportunities and to craft environmental regulation specific to the Territory has not been implemented. The Quebec Department of Environment and the Canadian Department of Environment, in violation of the Agreement, have been at the vanguard of efforts to deny the special status of the Territory and existence of the Cree Nation. Moreover, the laws that have been applied are often inappropriate, as they have not been developed or modified to suit the Territory. Why is this so? It is because the regime to do so has been dysfunctional since 1978 when it was set up. Moreover, as a result of the dysfunction of the Agreement regime there is neither a legal nor regulatory framework for dealing with the questions of social impact remediation including issues such as employment and contract priorities. The Cree representatives who have brought up such issues on a regular basis since the regime was created meet stiff opposition from the representatives of Quebec and Canada. This is in contradiction to what was supposed to have happened in our Agreement of 1975.

Section 22 of the Agreement on the environment and future development on the Cree Territory included environmental and social protections and in addition was to protect the rights of the Crees in the other sections of the Agreement. Section 28 deals with Cree economic and social development. This section set up four entities, which were to be important players in the social and economic development of the Crees and of the Territory. These included the James Bay Native Development Corporation (28.2), the Cree Trappers Association (28.5), the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association (28.6) and the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association (28.7).

The James Bay Native Development Corporation was to promote Cree economic initiatives including joint ventures and to promote cooperation with the James Bay Development Corporation. The Corporation was to invest in specific projects and in particular to increase Cree involvement in outfitting, tourism, native arts and crafts, road maintenance, fuel distribution, forestry and mining.

It was evident to the Crees from the beginning that this Corporation was incapable of undertaking its mandate. First of all, the James Bay Development Corporation from the beginning defined its mandate as promoting the non-Native interests in the Territory. Its directors have for years lobbied the government and have made numerous presentations in the region against strengthening the Cree involvement in economic initiatives on the Territory. The James Bay Development Corporation used its involvement in the James Bay Native Development Corporation to work against increased Cree involvement in the development of the Territory. The James Bay Native Development Corporation never received the funding which was promised by the Government of Quebec as it served more as a forum for discord between the Crees and the James Bay Development Corporation than it did to facilitate greater Cree involvement and development. We believe that a modern-day development bank funded with appropriate levels of funding could accomplish the ends which were defined for the James Bay Native Development Corporation only if it were not to be controlled by the James Bay Development Corporation as was the case in the past.

Also in the Agreement are the two associations, which have to do with social development more than economic development.

The Cree Trappers Association has as its mandate to provide programs to the Cree trappers so that they may develop the infrastructure relating to that way of life, increase the economic advantages of selling the products produced by that way of life and participate more in the land planning and management of the resources. In addition, according to section 24.10 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement the Crees were to be the primary parties responsible for the management of the wildlife of the Territory. Quebec would recognize each head of the family hunting territories as an enforcement officer. In addition to this, Cree conservation officers would be trained and appointed. The operation of the Cree Trappers Association is presently under discussion with Quebec and Canada. Suffice it to say that both the funding of basic operations and the programs related to the goals of the Association have been either under-funded or not funded at all by the governments of Canada and Quebec. The commitments of these two Governments and of the Crees to this Association are a commitment to work out a new procedure for land management and for the management of wildlife beyond that which is operative in other parts of Quebec and Canada. Today, 23 years after the signature of the Agreement we are still trying to have this implemented.

The Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association also has a strong element of social development. The Crees have done much to implement this as witnessed by the distribution outlets that we have set up in Val d'Or and Montreal. However, we need to go further in working with the government of Quebec and the government of Canada in developing the organizational infrastructure of this association and also helping it develop the means to support this element of the traditional Cree way of life and emerging cottage industry.

The Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association has a more commercial aspect. It states in the Agreement that: "Canada, Quebec and Cree Regional Authority, in a proportion to be mutually agreed upon shall assist the Association in its operation and objects. " (Section 28.6.2) For twenty years we have been seeking to have Canada and Quebec help us in setting up this Association. The Cree Association has been resisted by Quebec as it is seen by the concerned civil servants in Quebec and also by the Conseil de la Radissonie to be in competition with the non-Native regional tourism association. There has therefore been a concerted effort to subsume the Cree Tourism and Outfitting Association under the regional administration being created for the non-Native businesses in the Territory. We see the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association as a Treaty obligation to the Crees on the part of Quebec and Canada. It precedes the creation of le Conseil de la Radissonie. It is neither part of nor dependent upon other associations to be set up in the Territory.

Our refusal to accept that our Outfitting and Tourism Association be subsumed within a larger umbrella controlled by a regional structure comes from our understanding of the obligations of Canada and Quebec to the Crees. Our Association does not stem from a policy decision of Canada or Quebec but rather is a constitutionally affirmed treaty right set out in section 28 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. We do not preclude parallel linkages and relationships between our Association and others but we insist that the outstanding obligations of Canada and Quebec to the Crees be first implemented and sustained. Only then will there be a satisfactory basis on which to discuss on what basis other peoples may then also participate in the territory. Any other approach is unacceptable.

In addition to these specific commitments to institutional development, Canada and Quebec committed to the "Joint Economic and Community Development Committee". This Committee, as with the section 22 (Environment and Future Development) legal and policy development committee (The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment) was charged with the responsibility of making recommendations with respect to: "the establishment, expansion, operation and effectiveness of government economic development, community development and other programs related to the economic and social development of the Cree people." (Section 28.1.1). This Committee met approximately three times after it was set up in 1978 and neither Canada nor Quebec mandated nor provided the resources to their members to allow them to undertake the creation of a policy and program framework to meet the specific commitments of both governments to the Cree people. Rather, the political powers that be on both sides were content to allow both the Federal and Provincial officials to allow this committee to die.

As a result, the Cree communities still to this day do not have the housing and sanitary infrastructure necessary to support their populations in accordance with accepted Canadian standards. We now, today, need 1300 houses and the infrastructure to support them. In addition to the responsibilities over community development the Committee was supposed to look to the devolution of the administration and management of government programs to the Cree Regional Authority and to the Cree communities.

In addition to this the Committee was charged with responsibilities for the development of policies and programs respecting contract preferences for Crees and Cree companies, employment services and training for Crees and Cree companies and programs and policies to encourage the development of the Cree private sector. Nothing has been done in this regard.

The regime set out in section 28 is not confined to Category 1 or Category 2 lands. Rather, the regime applies to the whole Territory. This is evident with respect to training and job recruitment if one looks at for example, article 28.9.2 which states: "the programs shall be of such nature to qualify candidates to meet the specific requirements of existing and eventual job and business opportunities in Cree settlements, in the territory and elsewhere" In regard to the devolution of government programs and hiring of Crees within the government, the Agreement states in article 28.10.1: "the number of Cree people employed by the government within the Territory and in particular the senior and management levels shall increase as rapidly as possible" In respect to contract priorities the Agreement states that: "Quebec and Canada shall take all reasonable measures -- to establish priority -- in respect to contracts and employment created by development in the territory." In regard to assistance to be provided to Cree companies and individuals so that they can take up the economic opportunities in the Territory, the Agreement states: "(28.12.3) In general, assistance to Cree entrepreneurs shall expand, develop and diversify opportunities for Cree people to participate in and benefit from the economic development of the Territory -- such as service enterprises, resource exploration, construction and maintenance work, and natural resource enterprises, the purpose of which is to exploit and protect the living and non-living resources of the Territory."

This will provide you with a very brief overview of the main administrative structures and specific commitments made to the Cree in 1975 by the Governments of Quebec and Canada, by Hydro-Quebec and by the James Bay Development Corporation. I state to you that this is not what has been implemented in the past 23 years. Rather than an upstanding, forthright and honest fulfillment of these commitments to the Cree people, we have seen 23 years of attempts by Canada and Quebec and their entities to deny, diminish and refuse to work with the Cree people toward this specific constitutional legal policy and program framework which would have supported and ensured and which may still support and ensure the community and economic development of the Cree Nation. Only recently, 2 years ago, did the government of Quebec sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Crees to begin the process of correcting what is wrong. Progress to date has been very slow but at least we have begun.

The Present Situation

The document, which was distributed in the materials inviting us to this forum today, contains a description of the present situation in Northern Quebec. This description is interesting in that it reflects some of the biases and misunderstandings which lie behind the present difficulties in establishing a productive framework wherein the Cree people and the non-Native people living in the Territory could pursue commonly accepted goals in development.

The document omits reference to the Cree and Inuit "Nations" except in regard to the supposed acknowledgement of our Nation's status by the National Assembly of Quebec in 1985. The document forgets to note that the Aboriginal Nations in Quebec at the time protested the content of the unilaterally imposed Declaration of the Assembly because it denigrated the status of Quebec Aboriginal Nations.

However, in the first paragraph the document refers to the Crees and Inuit as "ethnic groups", and thereafter refers to us as simply the Crees and in the case of the Inuit simply as the Inuit. . We can only understand this as an attempt to strip us of our unique status, arising from who we are, from the terms of the Agreement, and from the terms of the Constitution of Canada. Yes ,we are standing before you as individual Crees. But we are a Nation and a People, and these are the terms in which we exist and participate in our development.

The document completely fails to mention the existence of the structures set up under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975 specifically to bring about greater cooperation between the Cree Nation and others in the Territory. There is no mention made of the legislative and program management committees in either the section of the Agreement on environment and future development or on the section of the Agreement concerning economic and social development.

Rather the document lauds the great accomplishment of the structure recently unilaterally imposed by the Quebec Government called in Our Region "Conseil Regional de developpement Nord-du-Quebec". This is a structure which functions to supplant and replace the structures, programs and rights of the Crees as defined in the 1975 Treaty. First and foremost we demand that the governments of Quebec and Canada work with us to set up the institutional structures as described in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in such a way as to make these effective. We do not and will never accept replacement of these fundamental rights by such imposed structures as the regional council and for example the James Bay Development Corporation.

We would suggest that Quebec suspend the operations of these other entities, at least during the time in which we undertake to set up the implementation of the 1975 commitments of Quebec and Canada. Otherwise, they will unavoidably be perceived as an attack on our rights rather than an attempt to secure the orderly development of the Territory and a shared basis.

The document also conceals the fact that there is a high unemployment rate in the Cree communities (as high as 50% in some cases) and that the Crees have very little involvement in the employment created by the development on the Territory. Social scientists estimate that when a country reaches more than 15% unemployment, there is political instability. Few in Quebec or elsewhere would stand by with the unemployment levels experienced by the Cree people. My people have been very patient but our patience is wearing thin.

The structures and programs have never been put in place, which were supposed to increase Cree involvement in the employment benefits of such development. If we look at the over 700 employees of Hydro-Quebec in the Territory we Crees presently have less than 1% of the jobs created by Hydro-Quebec in the Territory. In respect to mining, the document refers to specific employment figures for specific mines. While it is true Troilus project is remarkable in that the Crees have managed to secure 67 jobs or 27% of the jobs created by that project, the fact is that if the overall employment figures for mining had been presented in the document it would have been evident that the Crees presently occupy less than 5% of the jobs created in this sector in the Territory. The document presents the forestry sector employment figures in a similarly distorted way. While the forest sector from the Cree Territory creates in Quebec over 15,000 direct and indirect jobs, the Crees have managed to secure 1/4 of 1 percent of these jobs and this only after an investment of several million dollars on our part.

In spite of this lopsided employment situation, the James Bay Development Corporation still finds the moral justification to decry the prominent place the Crees play in regional development and to demand that the resources of the Quebec government be devoted to the economic undertakings of the non-Native sector. In addition to this, the James Bay Development Corporation and some Quebec politicians have repeatedly made statements to the effect that the non-Natives should continue to increase their efforts to occupy the Territory. The direction of development in Northern Quebec clearly shows the apparent inability of the present Government to embrace and see in the Cree Nation an aspect of the social reality and jurisdiction of government in Northern Quebec. An "us" Quebecois versus "them" -- Crees policy is being promoted in our part of Quebec which runs against the public pretension of the Government of Quebec that it does in fact recognize and embrace the Cree reality. We recommend that if we are to begin on a new path of development that we work together to put into place the structures promised to the Crees in 1975. We must also take concrete steps to correct the inequity that has been created in the development of the Territory. We must reverse the policies of inaction, outright refusal to implement, and general hostile attitudes which Cree proposals have too often encountered.

The Future

The future begins with the recognition by the Government of Quebec of the existence and the place of the Cree Nation in the development of the whole of Eeyou Istchee, which is the proper and ancient name for the Territory recently, glossed "Radissonie". The future also begins with the proper and effective recognition of the heads of the Cree hunting territories as having a significant and formal role in the determination of land-use practices and planning. We are ready to work through the Grand Council/Cree Regional Authority with the governments of Quebec and Canada in defining how this role can be exercised. The lack of recognition of the traditional Cree system of land management has been a major impediment in the implementation of the Agreement. But, this cannot be determined without the acceptance of the process and results by the Cree Nation, through the Grand Council/Cree Regional Authority.

To date development in the North has tended to be development which has been undertaken not in concert with the residents of the North, but in large part in spite of (or even against) them. We are ready to work with the government of Quebec to see to the proper implementation of the obligations of the governments of Quebec and Canada with respect to the Crees. In order for such implementation to benefit the growth and improvement of the Cree Nation, there is a need for the proper implementation of the specific mechanisms set out in 1975. Through these mechanisms we are ready to work with the non-Native population of the Territory to promote its sustainable development through laws, and policies and programs specifically geared to the Eeyou Istchee context.

Recently the idea has been put forth by Hydro Quebec that the Crees invest in some future project and that in proportion to the Cree participation the Crees would share in the profits. First of all, we agree with Hydro Quebec that the damages of any project should be compensated and remediated to the extent that this is possible to do. We also stand by the principles of sustainable development as set out in the Bruntland Report. Secondly however it is to be noted that the ability of Hydro Quebec to raise capital for projects is largely conditioned by the fact that it has the backing of the Government of Quebec and enjoys a monopoly in the sale of electricity. As a result, it has a captive market and is otherwise provided with security by the tax payer. The Crees do not have vast quantities of uncommitted capital to put into huge projects. If we had our recognized right to develop certain resources and a commitment from Hydro Quebec to purchase the electricity produced, I am sure that we also could raise capital on a large scale, just as Newfoundland proposes to do in its agreement with Hydro Quebec.

We believe in any case, that a portion of the revenues created by development must be diverted directly to Cree and non-Cree regional entities according to a formula and mechanism to be agreed to with the Crees. The south not only benefits from the particular resources coming from the north but also benefits from their transformation into saleable products. We in the north both Native and non-Native have seen very little of the benefit that derives from this transformation of the raw materials taken from our territory. Such industry should be favoured in any development strategy for the future. In addition the following measures are required:

Specific, adequate training and career counseling measures to be undertaken to bring Cree youth and adults into employment opportunities created on the Territory;

Development Agreements to be signed by potential developers with the Cree Nation in respect to employment quotas for Crees and Cree companies and strategies for meeting these within reasonable time frames [the Troilus Agreement is an example of this type of thing that goes part of the way in the right direction];

Agreements to be signed between potential developers and the Cree Nation in respect to land-use and where unavoidable damage occurs among other measures, remediation and compensation of damages to the traditional Cree way of life due to such projects;

Regulations and other measures to be adopted by the Governments of Canada and Quebec and the Cree Nation, to be worked out in consultation with the Cree Nation, for implementation of the Agreement obligations concerning employment and contract preferences to the Cree people in respect to development on the Territory;

Recognition of the principle of sustainable and equitable development (including forestry development) (as defined by the World Commission on the Environment) by the Governments of Canada and Quebec as requiring environmental and social sustainability and equitable participation and benefit of the Cree people without which development cannot proceed;

Identification of a resource derived revenue source and flow of funding for an Eeyou Istchee Development Bank to be controlled by a Board appointed by the Cree Nation (sources will include a substantial portion of present government tariffs, taxes and charges to developers of whatever nature);

The adoption of a rolling five year plan for the development of the housing and other municipal infrastructures in the Cree communities to include the funding required to meet present and future needs and to be signed by the Cree Nation, Quebec and Canada.

Implementation of the Environmental Protection provisions of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (without diminishment of roles) in a manner to be agreed to among the Cree Nation, Quebec and Canada, but to include at a minimum the above requirements for social development as well as the protection for the environment and Cree way of life as set out in the Agreement.

Overall, we also insist that the spirit and intent of the Agreement between us be honoured and respected: namely that our special place in this territory, which is our only space to be in the universe, be honoured and respected. That the stated intention of the other parties to the effect that the Cree people were to be afforded the means and benefits required to protect their economies and ways of life and to continue to survive and thrive in dignity would be forthcoming.

This is our nine-point plan.

We are not begging, or even asking, for access to our lands and resources so that our people can work to support themselves and so that our Nation can benefit from its birthright. The Creator put us here and gave us the means to survive and thrive in this place. It is others who have taken and are continuing to take the steps to colonize or dispossess us, and leave us for all intents and purposes dependent on government handouts. This cannot continue.

We have mentioned the human rights context of our social and economic rights. The International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights is binding international law, including on the governments of Quebec and of Canada. It provides that under no circumstances shall a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. It also provides that all peoples have the right of self-determination, which includes the right to dispose freely from (and thus benefit from or even retain) their own resources.

Any purported extinguishment of our rights to our lands and resources certainly constitutes a breach of our human rights as a people. No government, no Crown, no power has the right to leave an indigenous people dependent while benefiting grossly from the colonization and removal of the wealth of its traditional lands. If this were done to Quebec, it would be identified for what it is: a breach of fundamental human rights.

No lesser standard can justifiably be applied to us. The time for our people, the James Bay Crees in Eeyou Istchee to share in and benefit meaningfully from the resources in our Cree traditional lands is now. When our people enjoy a level of social development equivalent to that of the non-Aboriginal peoples in Quebec and Canada, then we will know we have done the job.

In any case, we are certain that Quebecers would not knowingly wish to be associated with any ongoing violation of our economic and social human rights. Our plan is for the Governments of Quebec and Canada to live up to what they promised in 1975. We will not accept less.

If we are to advance, we must implement what was promised to the Crees in 1975 and what is consistent with international laws and standards. Twenty three years after the signature of the Agreement we should be moving beyond what was agreed to so as to upgrade the standards to reflect advancements in the standards for environmental protections and for the protections of human rights. We would be opening the door to the increased violation of our rights if we did not insist on at least obtaining the promises of 1975 before discussing improvements to this. We are ready to proceed, but there is a substantial shortfall to be met before we can discuss with you on an equal footing, a nation to nation basis, the means to improve the development and protection of the Territory, Eeyou Istchee. We are ready to proceed with this discussion

We, the Crees have plans for development and we agreed to many things with you in 1975. You gave your solemn commitments and the time is overdue for you to implement with us not only what we agreed to in 1975, but how we can meet the objectives of today.

I would be glad to reply to questions. Meegwetch!