Recently a rumour came my way. It came from three different people so I assigned a reporter to look into it. The information said that by March 31 the Board of Compensation (BOC) would close its books (as it was the end of the fiscal year) and all its assets and monies would be transferred to the Cree Development Corporation (CDC).
Our journalists are thorough and called both BOC Chairman Jack Blacksmith and Grand Council Executive Director Bill Namagoose. It turned out there was no basis to the rumour. In another issue we will cover the idea of taking the BOC and CreeCo and making it a part of the CDC.
Addressing this issue I have to ask how can politics mix with business as the former seeks to uphold public interests whereas the latter is to pursue private benefit and profit? We have heard many speakers and studies throughout the years saying there should be a separation of the two because of those conflicts. Politicians must choose whether they want to serve the people or business interests. For example, in the past Cree Construction has been told by Cree politicians that employment was a higher priority than making a profit and yet they are blamed when the profit margin is low or non-existent.
The idea of combining the BOC et al has gone forward with nary a pause for a real look at both sides of the issue. When a political decision is made in one direction the resources to promote it rarely see the same resources given to consider whether or not it is a good idea.
The arguments supporting dissolving the BOC include the fact they only have $233,772,000 in their bank account. They started with $136,625,000 initially around 30 years ago and despite the economic downturn have managed to do better than Canada Savings Bonds. However this sum is small potatoes these days and proponents of the plan say we should be putting money under one umbrella.
There are a host of other reasons and perhaps they are valid but the previous concerns are overshadowed by just one. That concern deals with Cree rights and a loss of one of them could affect the way things are done in the future. The creation of the BOC is part of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and as such is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution as well as being part of the rule of law in Quebec. For one party to change this opens the door to Canada and Quebec doing the same. After all what was thought to be written in stone has proved to be nothing of the sort.
If we are to contemplate changing the basis of this Agreement it should be done in the same manner as the Paix des braves agreement. A referendum is the way as something of this importance must be decided by all Cree. To take away our democratic ability to elect those to look after our future and put it into the hands of a few who will choose them on our behalf requires our acceptance at the very least. Our rights to our land and control of our destiny were done by strangers without our knowledge and consent. Surely our own leadership would not follow in those footsteps.