The president of Cree Construction, Steven Bearskin, thinks the company has a public relations problem and says not enough people are aware of its positive contributions to Cree life.
“Not enough has been told about us. Just the bad things have been told,” Bearskin said in a phone interview from the company’s head office in Ville St-Laurent. “We’re more than just a profit-oriented company.”
Bearskin was responding to criticism of the company by Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come in a letter sent to the board of directors of CreeCo., Cree Construction’s holding company. The letter, dated October 5, stated that Cree Construction should be more open in its annual reports and should devote more attention to creating permanent jobs and long-term economic development for Crees.
Coon-Come also scolded Cree Construction for a statement in its latest annual report saying “Cree opposition to new projects has had major impacts on Cree jobs and the results of the company.”
The Grand Chief called this statement “a gratuitous slap in the face of the Cree people” who together are trying to stop further hydro-electric development.
“That’s his opinion,” responded Bearskin, who said Cree Construction was just trying to tell it like it is. “He [Coon-Come] is also responsible for the operations of the company. He’s caught sometimes.”
But Bearskin didn’t entirely reject Coon-Come’s criticisms. He said they are on the agenda for the next CreeCo. board meeting on December 15 in Val d’Or and acknowledged that many of the criticisms are valid. “They’re all constructive criticisms. We’re progressing slowly in those areas.”
He said the company has spent a year studying the idea of moving its head office to a Cree community, and will release a report next spring. He said the idea has pros and cons.
“Politically, it would be the correct thing to do. From a business point of view, it wouldn’t be a good thing.”
Bearskin also admitted Cree Construction could have made a higher profit last year and agreed the firm should hire more Crees in full-time positions.