Letters to the editor
smell a rat
be careful: I smell a rat! This agreement with Mr. Landry sounds terrible.
You will be paid to provide the services that the government of Quebec
should be paying for. You will be providing these services with a very
this agreement, the government of Quebec receives billions for your
electricity and you receive nickels and dimes to provide services for your
you receive a fair price then I should pay more for my electricity here in
Southern Quebec. I would rather pay more and you receive a fair price and
be able to sleep at night. With this deal I am not certain I will sleep
good at night, I will though continue to have cheap electricity and the
government will make a fortune selling the rest to the Americans.
have a chance for the future
am writing to comment on what I saw and heard in the community
consultations at Waskaganish, Nemaska, Waswanipi and Mistissini.
It is fair to say there was support for the Agreement in Principle the
Cree leadership had signed. Some people were critical of the AIP and
they tended to voice their concerns first in the meetings. Once they
had spoken there were others in the room that asked questions about the
Agreement or who expressed real interest in seeing it completed so that
they could begin to enjoy the benefits.
were a lot of concerns about losing the river. The river is part of
our history and is very important to Waskaganish. The river has three Cree
communities on it and was the route used to haul Hudson Bay Company goods
and more importantly it maintained our relationships with each other. It
was also an important travel route to the inland hunting grounds.
this day the river is important for the Notimeshanan fishing site.
The people who hunt in that area said that while he saw the importance of
the fish, he also recognized the benefits that the Agreement would have
for future generations. Some were disrespectful to the Grand Chief
in the language they used and should have just stated their point of view.
The majority of those who spoke supported the Agreement and wanted to
learn more about it.
Waswanipi there was support for the Agreement. Some of the youth
expressed their support. People were generally interested in the
impact of the agreement on forestry and seemed to be interested in what
was already in the AIP. One elder who was obviously very emotional
about the land commented that it was part of the heritage of the people
and was glad that the Crees right to benefit from resource development is
part of the AIP. He also stated that this generation that thrived on
hunting and fishing has an obligation to hand the next generation an
opportunity to thrive in the contemporary way of life.
was different only in that the Youth Chief Ashley Iserhoff spoke out
against the AIP and the process leading up to it. Many of the
criticisms made reflected a lack of understanding of the AIP. The
majority of the speakers in Mistissini spoke in favor of the Agreement and
these included elders.
Nemaska there were young people and a couple of non-native teachers who
recently moved to the community, speak out against the AIP. They had
a group of very young children, who could not have understood the
complexities of the AIP bring in a placard against the Agreement. I
felt that these children were to young to be involved in this way.
The teachers were given a chance to speak and did so accusing the Grand
Chief of selling out. I was particularly incensed when one of them
suggested that the Crees look into alternative energy, as if the proposed
project would be built for Cree energy needs. She should campaign in
the south were they have an insatiable appetite for electricity which in
turn causes the north to be inundated.
of the Nemaska hunters monopolized the microphone for hours, which may
have caused some people to be reluctant to speak. When the meeting was
nearly over other members began to speak and expressed an interest in
going forward with the AIP. The consensus in the room seemed to be
in favor of the agreement, as expressed by Chief Wapachee afterwards.
I observed the most vocal critics were for the most part Crees in their
late 20’s and early 30’s who said that they spoke for the youth and
who also had good jobs in the community. I was left wondering
whether the youth who see that all the jobs in the community are taken and
who wonder about where they would find work in the future think of the AIP.
think that the AIP is the best agreement that is achievable at this time.
It is government to government and the funding will make the Crees a
significant force in the economic development of the territory. It is not
a Nation to Corporation agreement.
Cree government will take over Quebec’s powers and obligations to the
Cree Nation and carry them out itself. Our right to benefit from
extraction of our natural resources is respected.
this funding we have a chance to make jobs for the future generations and
to provide housing and community facilities for the present. We have
to negotiate a final settlement and we will need to stand together if we
are to succeed.
Cree who are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet have an
obligation to represent the facts accurately. I noted the comments made in
the Yahoo James Bay discussion group about the fact that the Grand Chief
received a lot of criticism in Mistissini does not respect this
obligation. The Internet is a powerful tool not yet fully utilized by the
average Cree Nation citizen due to high costs. The outside world who get
their information through this medium need to be aware of this.
to Mr. Ashley S. Iserhoff
Grand Chief / Chairman
Nation Youth Council
am writing to you in reply to your letter of October 30th 2001. I welcome
comment that is aimed to better understand the Agreement in Principle (AIP)
with the Government of Quebec. In your letter you raise several points
that I will comment on:
You ask for more time to consider the AIP. From the signing of the
agreement on October 23rd we have over two months to review and consider
it and to elaborate the text of the final agreement. Consultations on the
AIP and the final agreement will continue thereafter. I was involved in
the negotiations of the JBNQA. There, the Cree negotiated an agreement of
over 30 chapters in ten months. In light of past experience, I do not
believe it is unreasonable to complete in two months these discussions
with Quebec concerning in large part the implementation of one chapter of
You claim the amounts provided under the AIP are insufficient. I have used
financial experts in the negotiation of this agreement, as has Quebec. I
do not know the source of your financial figures but they are misleading
and substantially incorrect. Moreover, the adequacy of the funding going
to the Crees should be judged in terms of whether it would be a
significant boost to the Cree communities, to Cree employment and to our
economy. I believe that it will be a very significant source of funding
for our Nation. Indeed a minimum amount of $70 million per year is indeed
a very large amount by any standard. It is the largest payment to be made
to an aboriginal Nation in Canada in respect to economic and community
development. The funding is far in excess of any other funding arrangement
found in any other agreement signed by the Cree Nation. With the large
amount of funding to be received, we will determine how we build our
communities and economies. I have confidence that this financial resource
will be used wisely by the Cree Nation and for the benefit of all.
You mention the fact that we should be the owners of the enterprises on
our Territory in partnership with others. I agree and it is one reason
that I support the present agreement. The funding provided and the new
legal structures established, such as the Cree Development Corporation,
will assist us in investing in enterprises in our region and in creating
You state that a Cree veto on development should be obtained. The Grand
Council and myself have always taken the position that we have this right
of veto. This is what we have argued before the courts. Though you seem to
question whether this right exists, I have never doubted it. The AIP
reinforces this right since Quebec is seeking our consent to specific
projects. The Cree have always and will continue to use this right wisely
and in the long-term interest of the Cree Nation.
As concerns the recent report on Ouje-Bougoumou metal contamination
resulting from old mining projects, I share your preoccupation as does all
the Cree leadership. This is why this issue was fully discussed with
Quebec in the AIP. Thus, the AIP specifically states that its provisions
“shall not affect the rights and recourses of the Crees and shall in no
way affect the recourses of Cree individuals resulting from contaminants
(such as mercury or other metals and substances) arising from the
development of the James Bay territory”. In addition, the AIP
specifically states that all future mining development will be subject to
the applicable environmental legislation and to the environmental and
social protection regime stipulated in section 22 of the JBNQA. In
addition, since the release of the report concerning Ouje-Bougoumou, and
in light of the new relationship with Quebec, the Premier’s Office has
set up a task force to review the situation and suggest appropriate
measures to address the issue. Quebec will also have to take measures with
the people of Chapais and Chibougamau, as they do not seem to have been
considered, to see if they share the problem with the Cree community. As I
stated above, the problems stem largely from mines in this area that were
approved before the James Bay Agreement. However, I would like to know, as
I am sure those people who have been at risk are eager to find out, just
how widespread this problem is. We will do whatever is necessary to
resolve this matter.
Greenpeace has helped us in the past on environmental issues. However, you
refer to Greenpeace in your letter as somehow being the protector of our
traditional economies. You seem to forget that it is Greenpeace that is
largely responsible for the devastation of traditional aboriginal
economies by initiating anti-fur campaigns. These campaigns have resulted
in the demise of the economic basis of the traditional economies of most
aboriginal nations in Canada including our own. We have been successful in
preserving our traditional activities in part because of the ISP program
and the numerous remedial works programs available for our trappers and
hunters. This we succeeded in spite of Greenpeace and its anti-fur
campaigns. Other aboriginal groups have not been as fortunate.
You mentioned tourism as a future potential for the development of the
Cree economy. I know that some of the Cree miners who worked at Troilus
invested their money in a tourism venture. Future development will have to
be a balance of different activities, including Cree traditional pursuits,
forestry, mining, tourism and hydroelectric development as well as
manufacturing, construction etc. Not everyone is suited or wants to work
in tourism. I say that we should develop all kinds of ventures, including
tourism. The Cree people are ready to play a major role in the
development. We have waited too long by the side of the road while others
find work and investment opportunities in the Territory. The new AIP gives
us the opportunity to look into all these possibilities and to choose for
While there are those such as yourself who have worked in the band office,
at the Cree Regional Authority, at the School and Health Boards or in
other Cree institutions, there are just as many other Crees who do not
have jobs. I see many youth sitting at the back of the meeting rooms,
silent and without a chance at employment. You, of all people, should be
acutely aware of this. These people will need the jobs that we can create
with the funding that we will receive under this presently proposed
agreement. I praise the Cree institutions for what they have accomplished
but we must work together because we have much more that needs to be done.
By addressing the problems of unemployment and lack of community
facilities we will help to motivate children in school and we will give
people ways of addressing personal and family problems. If we decide to
reject the AIP then investment in our communities and in job creation will
have to wait while we spend our resources on legal and public campaigns. I
would rather bring hope and a future to the Cree youth. Rhetoric is easy,
but in the end it is the results that count.
You suggest that Quebec will punish us in the future if we do not conform
to their wishes, by withholding payments under the new Agreement. You are
wrong. The text of the new agreement will clearly protect these payments.
With the increased economic strength that we will gain with the present
proposal, we will be more effective in influencing public policy. We will
work with Quebec in a cooperative manner to accomplish our goals. We have
never been daunted by threats in the past to funding of the School Board
or Health Board, just because we disagree with Quebec or Canada on some
issue. What makes you believe that our resolve will be different in
respect to economic development? We will continue to protect and
strengthen our rights.
You say that the funding for “running” our community sanitation
systems, fire services, creating community centers and “a host of other
obligations” have not been properly considered. The cost of running the
sanitation systems, fire services, and community centers is largely part
of our Cree/Naskapi Act funding and comes from Canada. Some of the
obligations of Quebec in section 28 are assumed by the Crees through the
AIP. Quebec has contributed almost nothing to these in the past. The AIP
will ensure a huge new contribution from Quebec for these purposes. This
not only includes buildings, but also employment initiatives and help for
Cree entrepreneurs as well as assistance for our trappers and hunters. In
the past Quebec has paid minuscule amounts in regard to these matters. In
the future the funding will be substantial. We have examined the numbers
and they are correct.
I assure you that we have carefully done the calculations required to
understand the funding. We have looked at the present value and we realize
that the future funding will likely exceed the amount of $70 million per
year as the resources produced from the Territory increase in volume and
value over time. I do not accept your language in suggesting that we
proceed with “blind trust” in this matter. I rather believe that it is
you that is blind to the enormous benefits this AIP brings to the Cree
You refer to a General Assembly resolution concerning the protection of
Cree rights. Please note that the AIP is in complete conformity with this
resolution since Cree rights are in no way whatsoever diminished by the
AIP. On the contrary, Cree rights are enhanced and reinforced by the AIP.
The proposed agreement is an implementation of some of the Quebec
obligations in Section 28 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
It in no way diminishes the rights of the Cree people. On the contrary, it
implements and reinforces them, as the Crees have always demanded. The
difference is that in the new agreement we, the Crees will decide the
priorities. Moreover, you forget that at the last General Assembly, a
resolution was passed specifically mandating me to negotiate with Quebec
the participation of the Cree in natural resources development of the
territory. I have been acting under this specific mandate in carrying out
I appreciate points that you raise in your letter, it prejudges the
proposed agreement and does not reflect a considered understanding of it.
Indeed, rather than allowing time for debate on the issue when we came to
Mistissini on the 30th of October, you sent out the letter the same day
and four days after your press release of October 26th wherein you imply
that the process is an assault on our democracy. I am disappointed that
someone who purports to represents the youth acted without giving time for
due consideration of the issues. I have spent my life protecting Cree
rights including our right to democratic process. We are faced with a
unique opportunity. The offer before us could run out. Those who call for
indefinite delays so that we can consider the offer at their leisure also
assume the responsibility if the AIP is lost. I invite you to take the
time to understand the reasons that things had to be done as they were and
to understand the offer itself.
would be sad if one of the most important opportunities ever for the Cree
Nation were lost because of misinformed criticism. We have a
tradition of dealing with our issues together and of forming a consensus
on our position. You have violated our tradition by sending a press
release attacking the democratically elected Cree leadership, by inviting
Greenpeace and other non-Crees to criticize a Cree position brought by the
elected leadership before even the Cree People have been able to
understand and comment on it!
is an important issue and one that will influence the futures of our
communities and of our nation. We must act together if we are to build the
Chief Ted Moses
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