On November 29, the community of Oujé-Bougoumou opened the doors to its brand-new justice facility that will be serving the community and surrounding region. The building will give the public access to the justice system and allow them to actively participate. This accessibility will also provide jobs as well as role models for the community.
This event comes just a few weeks after the signing of the Complementary Agreement 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and one week after the Cree Cultural Institute opened up its beautifully designed headquarters and museum in the community.
Even though it is good to be finally admitted into the Agreement, Oujé-Bougoumou Chief Reggie Neeposh said, “The Agreement we signed was about something deeper – it was about finally making things right, and redressing an injustice.”
The new justice centre will be one of nine that are being set up in all of the Cree communities in Eeyou Istchee. With a justice centre in the area, people will not have to travel far to go to court. This access will increase the awareness of how the legal system works in Quebec and how it can be used to fight for people’s rights.
The facility will serve the community to the standards of the federal and provincial courts but these justice centres have another important role. They will serve the Cree community with respect to the traditional Cree practices in regards to conflict resolution and combine them with the laws of Quebec and Canada.
The ceremonies began with a traditional prayer followed by the speeches from the honoured guest justices as well as Chiefs of the community and administration. Speaking at the event were Chief Neeposh, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Judge Claude Bigué, Judge Jocelyn Geoffroy and Judge Ivan St. Julien.
Coon Come gave a presentation in the community centre about the Cree vision on the future development of the region as well as the Plan Nord. He discussed Cree governance as well as the Cree Development Corporation.
The incredible growth of Oujé-Bougoumou is the result of the community’s hard work to ensure that all the resources are being put to good use and to reflect the Cree culture. In 1988, Oujé-Bougoumou had about 100 residents; today, it is around 900.
The expansion of the community and the inauguration of these new buildings and institutions will better serve its members. In regards to its look and layout, Oujé-Bougoumou is one of the most beautifully planned communities in Eeyou Istchee and the new justice centre simply adds to the town’s attractiveness.
To meet the needs of its growing population, the community is seeking to build a new health clinic as well as a larger community centre. With all of these events that have happened lately, they are going to need bigger halls in Oujé-Bougoumou.
Currently, the community is being served by a traditional healing centre which can provide only a limited range of services as opposed to a modern clinic that could service a larger populace. The administration is working with the Cree Health Board in getting a clinic set up and they hope start on the planning next year.
There are many things that must be done for this young and vibrant community to get its footing in order to properly serve its people, the leadership in the community as well as the Cree administration have this as their focus. Chief Neeposh summed it up best, “Our objective in this effort has been to ensure that, at the end of the day, we have done what we can to bring about the reestablishment of peace and harmony in our community, so that we can focus on the positive challenge of creating a healthy and dynamic community. This is our highest priority, and this is our goal.”
The new justice building in Oujé-Bougoumou is only a small part of the greater plan which is to have one in all nine Cree communities. Once this is complete, the administration can focus on developing other aspects of communities based on their needs. At the rate that the facilities are being opened that goal is not too far in the future.