With the recent referendum on the offshore islands, the Grand Council took measures to involve the youth. Many societies, not only Cree, have had a problem getting the youth to vote on important issues involving the Cree Nation.
While using traditional media tools, such as print and radio, the Grand Council embraced new technologies youth use such as Facebook, Twitter and other internet sources like myspace, flickr and of course youtube as well as the text trees used with cellphones.
It never meant that the leadership abandoned other voters but they saw a problem and they dealt with it.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come congratulated the Cree Nation for their participation in the referendum. He said, “The Cree youth came out in great numbers to support their Nation and I am very proud to see the next generation of Cree leaders coming forth to exercise their right to self-determination. I will never forget the messages that were twittered among the youth around the Nation encouraging others to vote and to get involved.”
This latest Agreement accepted by the Cree tells the Cree people that the islands they lost through a stroke of a pen are part of their way of life again. For the coastal Cree, they can continue their traditional way of life on the islands of James Bay and eastern Hudson Bay. Coon Come said this Agreement guarantees that the Cree not only have a traditional and legal right to the islands but that their collective interests are legally protected if there is any future development.
Coon Come added that out of the 11,381 eligible voters, 70.47% voted Yes. “So we have surpassed the requirement of the referendum rules. The Cree have expressed their desire to continue their traditional use of the islands in a very strong and clear way,” said Coon Come.
The full results of the referendum are in the report of the Chief Referendum Officer, Lawrence Jimiken, which can be seen at: www.gcc.ca/
Negotiations on the Agreement accepted by the referendum says the Cree-Canada Offshore Agreement will be a constitutionally protected treaty and that it defines the respective rights and obligations of Canada and the Crees.
In doing so it says that it recognizes Cree ownership, including subsurface rights, over most islands in James Bay and Hudson Bay from Long Island going south and includes joint ownership with the Nunavik Inuit of most of the islands from Long Island to north of Umiujaq.
A Planning Commission will be created to look at land use that will involve Cree (2), Nunavut (1) and Canada (1) representatives.
As with the JBNQA, Crees have the right to harvest in the Offshore Area without permits and licenses. However, harvesting activities will be subject to conservation measures. But certain species will be reserved for harvesting by Crees only. Talleymen through the Cree Trappers Association will recommend wildlife management measures.
There will also be a Wildlife Board composed of Cree (3), Nunavut (1) and Canada (2). In the Agreement, Cree have been guaranteed the right be consulted before any major decisions regarding development projects in the area. Before anyone can do anything proponents are required to negotiate Impact and Benefits Agreement with the Cree.
There will be an Impact Review Board with Cree (2), Nunavut (1) and Canada (1) representatives to review proposed projects.
The Crees will share in royalty payments made to government from natural resource exploitation.
The Cree Nation can also claim compensation for any loss of property, income or harvested wildlife, caused by development.
As with the Paix des Braves Crees will have priority for government employment opportunities and contracts involving the islands.
In terms of money, there will be a capital transfer of $50 million to the Crees and a $5 million payment to Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) for implementation. Canada will assume all other costs related to the full implementation: including the Wildlife Board, the Planning Commission and the Impact Review Board and a $5 million research fund managed by Wildlife Board for wildlife research in the Offshore.