The following is a letter sent by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come to Cree leaders on January 19. It comments on a scathing study of Cree economic-development companies. The study found that the companies are losing money hand-over-fist.

To: Cree Chiefs and Band Councils Creeco Board Members Board of Compensation James Bay Eeyou Companee

From: Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come

The attached two documents present a brief analysis of where we stand in promoting Cree economic development. In my view economic development has to do with employing out people in jobs which allow them to sustain their way of life and improve it, as they see fit. It also has to do with independence and the promotion of independence by ensuring that our companies are well-run and profitable. Finally economic development has to do with Cree rights. The heritage funds belong to the Cree people as a collectivity. It is the responsibility of each and everyone of us to ensure that these funds grow and remain a source for future Cree initiatives. It is also our responsibility to ensure that these funds are used to benefit and protect the Cree people and our rights.

The analysis shows that we have not been very successful at creating Cree employment and that Creeco is not profitable. It depends upon the heritage funds every year. This dependence weakens the Cree Nation. The accumulated deficit, excluding outstanding loan guarantees, stands at somewhere between $40 and 60 million just for the last 10 years. What about the years before that?

It is time to stop the growing dependence of Creeco. The Cree companies employ a relatively small number of Crees. It is time that we forced Creeco to stand on its own so that it can, after restricting and reorienting its plans and operations, begin paying back these monies to the Cree people.

I do not believe that we can continue to offer an open line of credit to these companies under the guise of a so-called “cash management.” Moreover, the argument

that one more injection of cash is all that is required to keep the house of cards from falling is not valid. This is a pressure tactic used by those who are used to going for the next injection of heritage funds. We must find a way of addressing these concerns and if present advice does not include solutions then we should seek new advice.

In order for this situation to be corrected so that it no reoccur in the future we must be more accountable to the Cree people. This means that we must do an audit of the cost-benefit of our companies to the Cree Nation and devise means for better informing our people in the future. Gone are the days when we could work with the accountants to put the best face on our annual reports. It is time to provide reports which clearly show the financial cost to date, the debt-risk incurred (cumulative), a real assessment of the net worth and a real account of profit or losses.

Our efforts to date have produced activities which seem to be economic development. However, without profitability we must question whether this is in fact development. I believe that if we work closely with the bands and to the extent possible promote cooperation then we will be able to bring about stable development. However, I believe that the status quo is not viable and that it is time for major changes.

Signed, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come