Citing a lack of leadership, the Cree Trappers Association board of directors voted to fire CTA President Johnny Cooper December 9.

Cooper says he is stunned by the decision “I didn’t feel too happy,” he told the Nation. “It wasn’t a very good Christmas gift.”

CTA Director Donald Gilpin, who has been appointed to sit on the executive committee, said Cooper didn’t fulfill his duties in accordance with the by-laws.

“[Cooper] did not exercise leadership expected of him,”

Gilpin said. “He was never present at the main office in Eastmain. And there wasn’t enough involvement in meetings and he was always absent.”

Gilpin also said there wasn’t enough consultation with the board of directors: “He didn’t implicate himself with the staff, and as president of the executive he did not refer to the board for decisions, trips, approvals, communications and orientation. His lack of interest and implication for management of the organization is a key question too, the board felt his lack of attendance at the regional office executive meetings and lack of communications with the staff at the regional and local levels justifies this decision that was made.”

Cooper acknowledges receiving a letter containing 32 reasons why he should be removed as president. But he thinks the reasons are a smoke screen. “None of them related to any serious allegations or management issues like financial mismanagement,” Cooper said. “I feel the old guard is trying to flex muscle. I don’t take it hard but on the day that happened I was stunned.”

Though Cooper respects the decision it’s hard for him to accept. “There are procedures to go through when you have to remove an employee, you don’t just wake up one day and say to the guy, ‘Hey! We just fired you by vote,’” said Cooper.

Gilpin says Cree trappers from all the Cree communities were dissatisfied with Cooper’s lack of attendance at CTA meetings. “It was hard for us directors to work efficiently without a strong leadership,” Gilpin said. “So that’s why the people made a decision to remove the C.T.A. president. We had to do it. That was our mandate from the board.”

The next C.T.A. election is scheduled for August 2005. When asked about his future plans Cooper said he wants to stay on the local C.T.A. committee and spend time out on the land. “I’ll go and help my dad with his trap line. He’s 72 now, so I want to be there with him.”