The Grand Council of the Crees

Grand Chief Matthew Mukash Words of Introduction For the Conference on the Construction Industry

Posted: 2009-03-11

Conference on the Construction Industry

Val d'Or Quebec

Pictured right: Starting back row left: Abel Trapper CHRD/CRA, Steven Wanamaker CSB, Pierre Quellet (Cree - Abitibi - Temiscamigue Secretariat), Michael Petawabano CHRD/CRA, Rodney Hester CREECO, Emmett Macleod CRA, Charles Matoush CSB. Front row: Kathy Shecapio Niskamoon, Henry Mianscum CHRD/CRA, Mike Holmes, Grand Chief Matthew Mukash and Caroline Cusson (C-A-T Secretariat).

It is with great pleasure that I stand here before you as Honorary Co-President of this first Cree Construction Conference with the Mayor of Val D'Or, Mayor Fernand Tahran. On behalf of the Cree-Abitibi-Temiscamingue Economic Alliance and the Cree Regional Authority, I welcome you all to this very important gathering.

I first would like to acknowledge the work of the Secretariat, the City of Val D'Or, and the Cree Human Resource Department of the Cree Regional Authority and its Director, Henry Mianscum, for making this conference possible and for bring us all here today.

The title of the conference is Building with Vision. Many of you present here have had the opportunity to attend the Leadership Training that was held in Montreal last month. We learned that a good vision and strategic planning is necessary to be successful in promoting any form of development and to promote good governance. In the construction sector, this is what we need to do and we need to do this together. Promoting sustainable economy and a vibrant construction industry is about us building a vision together for our region. Together, we must build capable institutions that will support the development of industries and sustainable economies, and this must begin with a common will to work together and a vision to make the best out of sustainable resource development in the North.

Over the years, the Cree people have formed business relationships with many of the tradesmen and suppliers in Abitibi-Temiscamingue region, to help us in the development of our communities. We have also formed promising partnerships with many local and regional businesses in the construction industry, and we continue to look forward to a future of mutually beneficial relationships.

In the late 1970s, we formed a company called Cree Construction and Development Company with a vision of building infrastructure in our communities and more importantly, to engage in capacity building in the Cree world. To date, this company has successfully carried out and realized this vision. Before such time, we had limited access to the know-how in terms of community development and resource development. This was attributed to the fact that our people were still very much connected with the land and spent most of their time in the bush, as did our Ancestors. Over a short period of time we saw more and more development taking place in our homeland. We believed that if we were to open our doors to more development, we would seek to establish balance, and this is what we have done.

Today, while we continue to engage in our traditional way of life, we also have built a skilled and semi-skilled labour force in the construction industry. We have built contemporary community centers, administrative buildings, health and education centers and other service oriented facilities. Over a few decades our communities have taken the shape of small towns in the south.

As we adjusted to these changes over time, so came the growth of companies that you have become familiar with in the region, such as Matoush Enterprises of Mistissini, Wemindji's Tawich Construction, Makaahiikan Construction, Waswanipi Eenuch Construction, Apitisu Construction, Blackned Construction, Chee-Bee Construction of Chisasibi, ADC, Nisk Construction, Nemaska Development Corporation and Wabannutau Eeyou Development name a few! These companies represent the emergence of a prosperous market for the construction industry within the communities and the greater participation of Cree organizations in resource development within the region. It is a natural adjustment given that resource development often means the displacement of traditional subsistence activities in the area for the duration of a project.

Through cooperation and partnerships with companies in the region, we have created good working relations with many of the companies in Val d'Or and other municipalities within northern Quebec. Since the 1970s, development in James Bay Region has not been what you would call small or moderate. The North has become a vital part of not only the construction industry but energy and resource development as well, which have substantially enriched the federal, provincial and municipal economies.

Currently, our Agreements with Canada and Quebec call for the construction of housing, community infrastructure, community centers, justice centers, and health and education facilities. We have multi-year agreements to allow us to strategically plan for many years of a strong industry and employment pool.

Furthermore, the Premier has recently announced its Northern Development Plan, which has yet to be developed with the participation of Aboriginal peoples here in Quebec. The plan contemplates resource development in our region in the areas of mining, forestry and energy. As we Crees often say, we are not totally anti-development. We support sustainable development in our region that is compatible and respectful of our culture and the traditional way of life. With regard to Quebec's Northern Development Plan, the Premier promises that these multi-year plans will be inclusive and respectful of the inhabitants of the region in terms of participation and sharing of benefits from development. And this is a good thing!

In the broader scale, the President of the United States has also indicated that his strategic planning includes greener energy resources to replace coal-based facilities. As a part of this search for greener forms of energy, he is looking to the North, our North. We together can work to meet this need, and provide support for the needs of our neighbour to the south, but in a way consistent with our beliefs and our respect for Mother Earth. Now here is another possible opportunity to explore together the economic benefits that this vision can offer!

Those of us present here are neighbours. We're going to be living together for a long, long time. We have the ability to accomplish much together, if we take the time to learn more about each other and build upon the relationships we have begun over the past thirty years. Val d'Or and other municipalities of the region have been places where we have felt welcome and in turn have supported the local economies and formed lasting friendships.

I thank you all for taking the time to be here today. Enjoy the conference!

Thank you!