Here is what some of the Chiefs of other aboriginal communities and groups are saying about the $1.4 billion agreement. The deal, signed July 16 between Canada and the Cree Grand Council, will give the Crees control over services such as policing while paving the way for self-government negotiations.
Phil Fontaine, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations:“I applaud the Grand Council of the Crees and the government of Canada for reaching their $1.4 billion settlement. This deal was over 30 years in the making and was originally promised in the James Bay Agreement of 1975.
“Both Quebec and Canada have reaped huge economic rewards since thousands of square kilometres of traditional Cree lands were flooded to make way for the James Bay hydro-electric project. Finally, the Crees will begin to receive their full benefits as well.
“This agreement is a positive step forward. There are many more chapters that need to be closed across the country in order to bring about the full expression of self-determination for all First Nations, and to close the poverty gap that exists between First Nations and Canadians.”
Peggy Mayo, Band Councilor, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory:“I thought it was something very, very good for the Cree Nation. I think with the more power they will have, more power to them. I can see them becoming an independent nation within a country. I’m very happy for them and very proud of the agreement that they worked very hard to get.
“Off the top of my head $ 1.4 billion over 20 years sounds like a lot of money. But I’m not sure if that’s the right amount they should have got, it probably should have been more. But at this stage if they are satisfied with it, who am I to judge it?”
Terrance Nelson, Chief, Roseau River First Nation…
“They’ve signed agreements in the past where it came to nothing. When you look at $ 1.4 billion over 20 years it’s not a hell of a lot. Especially when you consider what Canada and Quebec will be getting out of the area in the next 20 years. The government and industry and everybody is probably going to be getting at least a hundred times more than that from that area in terms of the resources. So they probably got about a one per cent deal.
“It’s [self-government] certainly more achievable now. But it depends on us, not Canada. It is based on our capability to get a percentage of our resource base. Government funding won’t help to achieve that goal. If they had an agreement that gave them 10 per cent of the resource base in their area, that would be a hell of a lot more than $ 1.4 billion. In the way it is now, their resource wealth goes to Ottawa and then they have to apply to get their own wealth back.”
An information package will be available for any Cree who wishes one.
The summary of the Agreement will be in the three languages used by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.
The referendum question itself will be the same in all the communities and is: “Do you approve the proposed Agreement concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.” Voters will mark yes or no. The question will be in Cree, English and French.
At the July 16 press conference, Dr. Billy Diamond asked if there was any danger of this Agreement falling by the wayside if the minority Conservative government lost power before it could be ratified. Mainville replied it was unlikely the Harper government would fall by November.
He also said if the government withdrew, the court cases would resume and judges would tend to be very sympathetic in that case.
“It would be a dream case for a lawyer if that happened. In any case the chances of a withdrawal are very low,” said Mainville.
When asked by George Wapachee if he had any words of caution, Mainville replied, “There are people who may try to upset the apple cart.
When Nunavik came into being some people tried to stop the referendum. We are ready and able to handle those contingencies.”