For as much as it’s been a long time coming, the Crees of Eeyou Istchee will finally realize the long-term dream of creating their own Cree energy company.
Though the company has yet to be given a name, settle on a location or a company mandate, those tasks have been given to a committee that was formed last December to actually create the company.
Jack Blacksmith, director and president of CREECO, was appointed to this committee back in December as was Air Creebec President Albert Diamond, Nemaska Chief Josie Jimiken and two non-Natives. The two non-Natives are former Prime Minister Paul Martin and former Hydro-Québec Chairman André Caillé though it is unclear at this time if either of them has formally accepted the appointments.
According to Blacksmith, since the resolution has passed recently, the next step will be to set up a board of directors and lay down the foundations for the company in terms of its various components before the Council Board meets again in June.
“The Crees have been discussing this for a very long time. It has always been in the back of their minds, in terms of trying to get involved in the energy projects that have been contemplated in our territory. It’s been on the agenda for a long, long time,” said Blacksmith.
The Cree energy company will not only be multi-faceted but also, much like Cree Construction, exist within and beyond Cree territory. Whereas wind power will be a major element so will mini-turbines, biomass fuel projects and various other green-energy projects.
According to Blacksmith, there are a great deal of possibilities for the company to discuss as Hydro-Québec, which will be the main client of the company, requires a great deal of energy at the moment. The company will also be investigating the markets in Ontario, western Canada, the U.S. and Latin America.
Once a board of directors is established its next job will be to assess the needs of Hydro-Québec and see how the company would be able to meet those needs.
Though the creation of a Cree energy company was a campaign promise for Grand Chief Matthew Mukash four years ago and committees were established years ago to assess the situation, the company was not a possibility until now. Since the communities of Mistissini and Chisasibi had already signed deals with separate companies and Wemindji was discussing a smaller project, the Council Board was previously unable to come to a decision on the company. The Council Board has now decided to respect those agreements for the time being and work around them.
Though the company is brand new, Blacksmith can already see what a tremendous opportunity this is for the Crees. It will not only create a new revenue stream but there will be other economic spin-offs.
For instance, these projects will create immediate construction jobs for what needs to be built and then other employment to maintain and manage the facilities.
Though Blacksmith admits that many of these projects, such as a wind farm, would be costly to set up, the potential for long-term gains are tremendous.
“If we play our cards right, this is going to be a really big situation for the Crees. We are finally going to be involved at the level that we’ve been talking about for years. And, that we will succeed and part of that success will come with the creation of jobs and creating a viable company,” said Blacksmith.
Grand Chief Matthew Mukash was also happy about the passing of the resolution as it’s been a long-term goal for him throughout his administration as Grand Chief.
“The policy of the new U.S. president is towards clean energy so the opportunity is there. The doors are open and we just have to determine how we want to balance the development with our traditional way of life to make sure that our heritage is protected as well as the language and the culture,” said Mukash.
Mukash explained that yes, there is a great deal to be determined such as who will be the shareholders, the Cree Regional Authority or the communities themselves, but that everyone will benefit.
At the same time, Mukash is pleased that the Crees are finally the ones who are harnessing the potential for energy development in Eeyou Istchee.