Grand Chief Ted Moses
The Nation: Why would
you say this agreement is good for the Crees?
Grand Chief Ted Moses: I
would say this is good for the Crees because it resolves all past disputes
which now have gone and were about to be heard by the courts. You have to
use your own resources to fight and the governments haven’t made a move
to resolve them. It’s resolving past issues. There are some fundamental
gains like you get to participate in resources being extracted from Eeyou
Istchee. We have the opportunity to participate in the development of the
territory, not just in our communities. We can participate in partnership
with Quebec companies and with each other. We would have the resources to
do that. We can develop at own pace without interference from Quebec,
without asking Quebec how we should develop our economies and our
communities. That is a big thing. We now have the autonomy to do that.
We still have to get
give audit and financial reports. What’s to stop them from saying
we’re not giving you money because you’re not spending it the way you
Well, like most of us
whether or not we have an agreement we have to spend our money wisely. I
think that’s a principle that applies to the Crees. We’ve gotten used
to in the past 25 years of submitting financial statements to the
governments. We’ve demonstrated we can spend the money on what it has
been intended for.
What do we gain out of
We’ve gained the
resources, which will allow us to develop at our own pace, which we
don’t have now. Anything you want to do you need money no matter what.
No one can convince me that in this day of modernization you don’t need
money to go anywhere. I look at it as a tool to enable us to do all the
things I mentioned previously.
What do we lose in the
I don’t think we lose
much. It would be safe to say we don’t lose anything. We don’t lose
any of the Cree rights. The rights are maintained. The other provisions
are maintained with the exception of the economic and community
development and this is just for the duration of the Agreement and then it
will be reinstated. All we are saying is that instead of Quebec doing it
we’ll do it ourselves and use the resources to do that.
What about the
Sure, there’s a
Rupert’s River diversion. There will be one and it definitely means that
parts of the river will be dried up in the case of Eastmain River. There
will be some flooded traplines in Eastmain, Nemaska and Mistissini but the
rest of the territory will be pretty much intact. Broadback and Nottaway
will not be developed and we make no mention of Whapmagoostui but it’s
not slated for development.
What do you see Crees
doing with the money we’ll be getting?
We’ll definitely begin
to address immediate needs. That’s what we’ll have to do when we
establish our own priorities. The Youth definitely need jobs. We’ll have
to look at innovative ways on how we can do that. We will meet that
objective using the resources we’ll have. We have monies for
infrastructure because that would be Quebec’s contribution. We’re not
saying that Canada’s obligations are finished here either but we could
look at housing. We can put money where we want to focus and the needs
arise. We have big needs in different areas that have to be addressed.
did the Agreement
It’s a combination of
many things, past efforts, the Cree campaigns and statements. The fact
that we have close to 30 legal proceedings that have been filed. The fact
that we are in court on forestry, which has been perceived as a threat.
Campaigns in the states and Cree participation in international forums.
It’s a combination of the efforts of everyone in the past 20 to 25 years
to implement the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The differences
between the Crees and Quebec was getting wider and we live in the same
We showed we’d rather
negotiate than litigate. We want results rather than an ongoing fight. My
meetings with Premier Laundry talked about development, whether we
consider ourselves a nation and my feelings about revenue sharing and
partnership. Whether the Cree and Quebec can coexist came up. I think the
events of September 11th
played a role in showing we live in a really small world. We cannot let
our differences divide us forever.
When did you start
started about six weeks ago to test the waters. The real negotiations
started two weeks prior to me announcing it to the chiefs. It was at a
very high level with the premier and myself. We each had another person to
balance things out. It was a very small group where we agreed to respect
certain rules and conditions. It started after I asked that Quebec appoint
a negotiator at a high level directly under the Premier. A no nonsense
type of negotiations. They saw we wanted to resolve forestry and Quebec
wanted to develop the north. They saw that they could not go further with
development with the way things stood. So after some reflection Quebec
called the Cree negotiator and started some discussions. Things began to
unfold and events began to happen very, very rapidly. At the political
will the Premier and myself were the top negotiators. The fundamental
principles were laid done by us and the day-to-day negotiations were done
by a couple of people on each side.
What were the hardest
part of the negotiations?
I think the hardest part
was determining whether we could resolve these disputes. It was a question
of political will and putting the past behind us. We cannot always relive
that; let’s go for something new and innovative that will be result
oriented. This is opposed to an ongoing process that had very little
How’s the Agreement
good for Quebec?
It means we have to
co-exist. We’re permanent residents in Eeyou Istchee and we know the
people of Quebec are not going to move. If we’re going to co-exist we
have to put aside our differences and stop fighting. We have to find ways
to accommodate each other where both sides benefit. We didn’t want a
situation where it’s one at the expense of the other because Aboriginal
people throughout the world have been subject to marginalization, neglect
and exclusion. I did not want to see that continue forever for the Crees
so we had to do something.
Why the Secrecy?
That was part of the
rules. We didn’t want news to get out before we even concluded whether
or not there was anything solid. For me to go back to my people with just
a verbal offer wasn’t acceptable. This is a news-breaking story and we
could see where people might give it their own twist before anything
concrete came out of it. We were concerned with hardliners in the
Government of Canada who believe the Crees shouldn’t get anything more.
We were concerned with the reaction of the public as well as the
opposition in the National Assembly. We were concerned with the response
of the Federal Government as the third party to the JBNQA. They aren’t a
part of this deal. Rather than leave the doors open to people scuttling it
by whatever means we opted to make the talks secret. It you want to get
your work done and concluded then you have to make sure that you have the
opportunity to do so.
How will “Cree
consent” be given and what does it mean in your opinion?
Cree consent will come
about as part of the final agreement in which the Cree people will
Have an opportunity to say
yes or no. If they say no then there is no deal. If they say yes then I
will have a mandate to sign the agreement. Then we’ll have a final
agreement with Quebec. So it’s a question of allowing the people to
answer that question.
Do you think the Cree
Chiefs have the right to sign the deal?
Definitely. It’s part of
being a leader and we always have ambitions of bringing back something to
our communities. To be able to tell them we are bringing this back for
your benefit and we can do things with that. There’s been so many
meetings where we have come back empty handed.
We have responsibilities
as a leader otherwise why are you chosen as a leader if you have to run
back every time a decision is needed. Leaders are decision-makers.
Some Crees are calling
for a referendum. Are you in favor of that?
I have no problem with
that. We haven’t discussed among ourselves in what form the decision
will be made. That’s something that will be decided on in the next few
weeks. We hear people wanting a referendum. Some people have said all
13,000 and so odd people should vote on this but we have to be realistic.
We have to think with our heads. Those people who are capable of that will
have to draw a line. Consultation will be done. We are doing that already.
Would you be willing to
put the same type of resources and effort that went into the Cree
referendum during Quebec’s secession referendum?
The Quebec referendum was
a different issue, an emotional issue with big consequences. It’s not
the issue of the day. It’s a non-starter. If we had that on the table
we’d still be spinning our wheels. We will find ways. We’re spending
time in the communities and there will be consultations for the conclusion
of the agreement and even after the agreement.
Do you think the
agreement diminishes Cree rights in any way?
Definitely not. It does
not affect the other provisions of the agreement. The land regime is still
intact, the hunting fishing, trapping, the income security will still
continue, the education, they are not affected with this. In fact Quebec
says they will not take the CSB to the Supreme Court. That’s a big
concession. Health services will continue. They’ve agreed to
negotiations for the improvement of health services. Environmental
continues. Development will subject to the social and environmental
section under the JBNQA. We gain certain things so rights have not been
affected. Whatever rights we wanted to deal with in the court cases, well,
we’re going to put them aside for right now. If we need to argue them
then we can take them off the shelf and argue them. So we’re not giving
up right or agreeing to extinguish any of them. We haven’t released the
government of Canada from its obligations. Even though we’re withdrawing
the court cases as far as Canada is concerned they still apply.
It enhances and reinforces
Cree rights in the sense that you’re viewed as a participant and as a
partner rather than an adversary that is confined to your village.
There’s a great level
of trust involved in this. The JBNQA and MOU’s of 95 and 98 were
unimplemented as well as others. How do you reconcile this?
political will to resolve our differences. The agreement in principle
clearly demonstrates that. We don’t have to be enemies necessarily all
the time. You can establish new relationships and become friends. That’s
better for both sides.
Why the rush?
We’re not rushing.
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. There could be elections and nothing happens so
you won’t have a final agreement. A new government could mean no deal
and no chance for another deal. We have to look at what is in front of us
and ask what is in our best interests. We think we can do it.
“I won’t sell the
land for any price.” That was one of your campaign quotes. What do you
say to that?
Billy Diamond, when he was
Grand Chief in 1974, quoted the late Martin Hunter: “This land is not
for sale even for millions and millions of dollars.“ And we have the
JBNQA. It is not to say we have sold the land and it is someone else’s
property that you cannot go on. We’re going to be there in Eeyou Istchee
and we are going to be there as partners. If people want to take advantage
of tourism opportunities, then that will be possible. If people want to
establish companies that will create jobs then that is possible. If you
want to invest in an opportunity, then it’s possible. You cannot do that
if you sold the land and it is the private property of someone else.
You also said you
wouldn’t sign anything without consulting the people. The implications
were that you would be a more open Cree government so some people are
angry about that saying you weren’t open. How do you feel about that?
We’ve been open. We’ve
met in the Cree communities and the meetings have been open to the public.
We have in camera sessions when we deem fit. People and entities can
attend the meeting. I did not sign an agreement without consulting my
people. I consulted the Cree chiefs. I satisfied myself of their complete
support when all nine agreed at the council/board to adopt by way of
resolution what I did. At that level that is the type of consultation you
have to have. I satisfied my campaign promise as to that. It’s the
people who will give the chiefs and council the mandate who will in turn
give me the mandate to sign. With that I have fulfilled my campaign
Is there anything you
want to add?
On a final note I would
like to say it is an opportunity. As much as it is seen as an emotional
issue, for me it was difficult, I have a trapline and this decision will
affect my family. I thought about these issues and came to grips with
myself. While I was out in the bush I convinced myself I now have to think
with the wisdom that God, the Creator gave me, not with my heart. I
shouldn’t let the emotions at the time supercede the wisdom that I have
in regards to the vision I have for the future. I had to come to terms
with some issues. I asked myself, “Are you ready and willing to resolve
the disputes you have with Quebec even though there are certain things
that will be extremely difficult to accept by certain people? Will you
take the easy way out and continue to use Cree resources and fight and
which may not benefit my people and deprive them of the right to develop
and benefit and improve the quality of life for the whole Cree Nation.”
I’ve come to the conclusion with the wisdom I have that I’ll take that
bold step to resolve these disputes rather than continuing the fight. In
the long run if people agree and support it they will find that it is a
good decision, as opposed to saying no. I’d like people to think about
that as much as it may hurt. Take a few days to reflect on it and arrive
at an intelligent decision.
Reprinted with permission of The Nation
Maps and information herein are not intended for navigational use, and are not represented to be correct in every respect.
All pages intended for reference use only, and all pages are subject to change with new information and without notice.
The author/publisher accepts no responsibility or liability for use of the information on these pages.
Wilderness travel and canoeing possess inherent risk.
It is the sole responsibility of the paddler and outdoor traveler to determine whether he/she is qualified for these activities.
Copyright © 2000-2014 Brian Back. All rights reserved.
We do not endorse and are not responsible for the content of any linked document on an external site.