Chief Wapachee, Minister Blais, Elders, other Chiefs, other invited guests, I am honored to share the announcement of the Specific Agreement for the Elderly that the Cree Regional Authority and the Quebec government has signed. The Quebec government, under Minister Blais, developed a Strategic Action Plan for the Elderly, a strategy aimed at improving the living environment and the quality of life of the elderly across the regions of Quebec, including Eeyou Istchee. Furthermore, the Strategy will provide an opportunity to initiate projects that are economic and social-oriented over a period of five years. The Cree Regional Authority will also participate financially into this process and the total value of the Agreement will be $1.3M. We will ensure that the Agreement will benefit the elders of our regions as they play an important role in our communities
In Cree society we recognize and acknowledge the important part that Elders play in our lives. They are the keepers of many aspects of our society, such as our language, culture, traditions, knowledge and wisdom. Today, they continue to live in a traditional way of life on the land keeping our language, culture and heritage strong. In the time when they can no longer spend as much time in our lands, then we must provide them with the care, respect and love they deserve. We must have programs that allow them to continue to play an import part of our society, and continue to contribute to our communities in many ways.
We will always honour and respect what our Elders represent and what they are in our society daily. In the 1970s, when we first were informed of proposed development in our territories, our Elders journeyed to the cities in the south to help protect our way of life and lands. They played an important part in the negotiations that led to the signature of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975. It was their wisdom and knowledge of the land that prevailed in the end. Today, we enjoy the rights and benefits of this treaty. Thanks to the Elders!
I thank the Elders who have come here today to join us this important gathering, (and I see many of them) but more importantly, I want to acknowledge them as leaders amongst our communities in many ways. As many of you know I was raised on the land for the first sixteen years of my life. I, as Grand Chief of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, learned at the feet of Elders and continue to this day to learn from them.
The land is our first school, and the Elders are our first teachers!
Any effort we make to preserve or promote their participation in our daily lives in the communities is time well spent. We continue to move forward as a Nation with new Relationships with Quebec and Canada, and development within our territories. However, it is important for us to value who we are as a people and individually as we take these steps. It is our strength and will continue to define our progress as a Nation.
I thank you all for attending today this announcement of specific funds dedicated to our Elders, and look forward to the types of programs we will develop in our communities to further appreciate and engage our Elders in our daily lives.