Agreement in Principle (October draft)
Agreement in Principle?
what is being described as a “new relationship“ between the James Bay
Cree and Quebec, the two signed a monumental Agreement In Principle in
Quebec City Oct. 23 that redefines the rights and responsibilities of each
partner. The agreement spans 50 years and promises eventual payments of at
least $3.5 billion. But it came as a surprise to all but those involved at
the highest level.
agreement is intended to forge a new relationship between the Cree and
Quebec, with both parties entering into it on a nation-to-nation basis.
Emphasis has been placed on a mutually beneficial plan to develop and
modernize the James Bay territory. The scope of the agreement is vast,
encompassing economic, environmental and legal concerns.
development of natural resources, covers forestry, hydroelectricity, and
mining. Provisions for forestry allow a tallyman to designate a portion of
his territory, not exceeding 1% of his land, as a site of special interest
to the Cree. Areas surrounding a site of special interest could have
wildlife management protection for up to 25% of a trapline. Other
protective measures include protective strips bordering waterways, mosaic
cutting, and the development of a joint forestry board. The Ministry of
National Resources will make a 350,000 cubic metre wood allocation to the
Cree within the first five years.
will make an annual, tax-free financial contribution to the Crees for the
duration of the agreement. The annual contribution is slated at $23
million for 2002, $46 million for 2003, and $70 million for the following
48 years. The contribution will be indexed based on a formula intended to
“reflect the evolution of activity in the James Bay territory in the
hydroelectricity, forestry and mining sectors.” The Crees will in turn
assume Quebec’s responsibilities under the James Bay and Northern Quebec
Agreement in the area of economic and community development.
Cree Development Corporation (CDC) will operate as an autonomous
corporation under a majority Cree board of directors. The CDC will oversee
and facilitate economic development, including job creation. Quebec has
also promised to “instruct Hydro-Quebec to proceed with the signing of
the agreement concerning employment for the Crees.”
return, the Crees consent to the Eastmain hydroelectric project and the
diversion of the Rupert River. The Crees will also assume an equal share
of the operating costs of the provincial environmental committees set out
in the JBNQA. Crees will also take responsibility for the funding of local
beneficiary registration services and of local environmental service for
the term of the agreement.
stipulation is that the legal entities receiving annual contributions from
Quebec will have to submit “an annual report and audited financial
statements, describing their activities and the use of the funds.”
Should these reports not be filed within six months of the close of the
fiscal year ending March 31st,
“Quebec reserves the right to suspend subsequent payments, which however
will be re-instituted retroactively, without interest, as soon as these
reports and financial statements have been submitted.”
agreement seeks the resolution of all outstanding legal disputes. The
Crees are to discontinue legal actions against Quebec for failure to
uphold commitments in the JBNQA, as well as those concerning natural
resources. The Crees are to petition the court to declare the forestry
case settled, assuming their own costs for the case. Cree claims for
SOPFEU will be halted and they will commence paying monies to SOPFEU April
1, 2002. Quebec will not appeal the Cree School Board case to the Supreme
Court of Canada. Both parties agree to establish a dispute resolution
system to avoid legal proceedings in any further disputes. Legal action
will only be taken as a last recourse.
was represented at the table by Premier Bernard Landry, Native Affairs
Minister Guy Chevrette and Natural Resources Minister Jacques Brassard.
The Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Regional Authority acted on
behalf of the Crees, represented by Grand Chief Ted Moses, Eastmain Chief
Edward Gilpin and Waswanipi Chief Paul Gull.
deal appears to have caught most people off guard. Negotiations were kept
strictly confidential. The Agreement was first tabled at a Cree Regional
Authority council board meeting five days before it was signed Oct. 23,
according to Chief Gilpin.
and Landry began discussing the settlement of court cases some time after
the spring hunt, said Gilpin. “This (deal) is something that no other
Aboriginal group in North America ever got from a government,” said
Gilpin, who also feels that the agreement provides adequate compensation
for the Cree. “This will force the communities to come up with solid
long-term plans,” he added.
Agreement was signed with the consensus of the nine community Chiefs, with
the understanding that they must go back to their communities to hold
discussions and get the consent of the people. Consultations will be held
in the nine communities to determine what form this consent will take.
we should go for a referendum,” said Chief Gilpin. “I would support it
if that’s what all the communities want.” The Eastmain leader plans to
meet with as many segments of the community as possible, including elders,
youth and trappers.
parties seek to sign a final version of the agreement by the end of the
year. With so much at stake, however, there has been concern expressed
over whether or not this is a reasonable time frame.
months is a very short time“ to decide, Youth Grand Chief Ashley
Iserhoff told The Nation. “A lot of our people are still out in the bush
and con't come to the meetings that are taking place.“
Grand Chief Moses fears delay will mean the agreement gets bogged down.
“We're not rushing,“ he said. “It's the end of December and that's
the time we feel we need to conclude it. The longer we talk the more time
there is for circumstances to go beyond your control.“
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