Mistissini Chief John Longchap entered his second term winning over challenger Thomas Neeposh. In an exclusive interview with the Nation Longchap outlined his hopes and dreams for Mistissini.
The Nation: You been re-elected. How did that feel?
Chief John Longchap: I was very proud to be re-elected to be chief again. I was proud for many reasons. One is the reputation of the community and the professionalism that Mistissini has shown in the past. We also have a very good rapport in terms of organization and administration of our community, given the long history of the community and its chiefs and the work they have done. Our community has produced good people that are known outside of our community in different areas. I was very proud to be re-elected because of these things.
What do you plan for the future?
Well, I have my plan outlined in my campaign platform. My platform is about the needs of the community and that is what I am going to work on for the next four years. I hope to realize these in the next four years. I plan to work on them with help from the community members. I want to make sure the projects are finished and the issues see realization.
Could you give me some examples?
One of them is job creation. We want to find work for the community in terms of developing and growing a sustainable economy for our community by providing work on a permanent basis. Right now work is mostly seasonal and this is how it has been in the past. Now there is a need to change that and provide an economic base for the community. Right now there is only the administrative sector. By this I mean work that comes out of the running of certain entities and their offices. We have nothing that provides fulltime employment outside of that in terms of industry so that’s something I would like to look at. By this I mean a economic base through long lasting industries.
One of the things we are studying right now is a wood beam mill project, which would provide wood beams to be sold on the market. This would mean constructing a mill within the community. So that’s one idea.
Another is housing. Mistissini is one of the fastest growing communities according to Census Canada in the Cree communities. Because of that our need for housing is greater than the other communities. As of today we are backlogged by 400 to 500 houses. One of my ideas is to increase housing more and more each year in order to clear up that backlog in the future. That one though can’t be done in four years but we can start making a dent in it. That would create jobs in our community.
There’s the land transfer monies. Will you be using that to make some of this a reality?
Well, we can use funding Sources from the new agreement with Quebec or the Ouje-Bougoumou Land Transfer Settlement. Those are sources we can use to increase employment and housing in the community aside from the annual sudsidies from the CHMC we get from the government. So these funds that are coming in the future will complement or be an additional sudsidy realizing more housing and jobs for our community.
There’s a lot of new projects happening such as the paving of the road from Chibougamau to Mistissini. Are there Cree jobs being realized with these?
Yes, the first year, this year, we split between MTQ and us, the labourers and the machinery for the project because the first year it’s being administered by MTQ. But in the second year and third year the contract will be under the Cree Nation of Mistissini so we’ll decide who will be hired. Of course we are going to hire our people.
Then there are job opportunities for people in other areas like forestry operations. We are just beginning to discuss with forestry companies on what kind of contracts they can give us or we can attain through agreements with the companies. This will help in job creation for Mistissini.
There’s Camp Nemaska and the work for the EM-1 project. We already have people working there. I can say that we are going to encourage the members of our community to work there. So there’s several areas where we can find work for our people.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m very honoured to have become Chief of Mistissini for the second time. It’s a community that I am very proud of. It has a good reputation with both the federal and provincial governments.
I want to continue to maintain that reputation.
I also want to continue to demonstrate the professional that my peers did and I want to keep the spirit of the community in good health. I have to take the spirit of the community into consideration. In my opinion we have always had a good spirit here in Mistissini. I think if I can do that it will help to make a better community.
I can say that with the new council that there is a lot of good experience here that will support me in these endeavours. I feel I am standing on firm ground. It’s very encouraging and I can say we all want to do good things for the community, for our members and our administration.