Crees signed away their aboriginal rights and can’t secede from an independent Quebec, says a top PQ official.

“We believe Crees have no right to secede from Quebec or Canada,” said David Cliche, who is the official liaison of the Parti Quebecois with First Nations.

Cliche told The Nation that Crees have nothing to fear from Quebec sovereignty. “The sovereignty of Quebec will not be done against the native nations,” he said.

“It is the citizens of Quebec who by a vote would decide that the province of Quebec would become a state,” said Cliche.

“This being said, on the territory there are aboriginal nations. Their right to self-determination exists, but this right does not give them the right to secede from Quebec. On top of this, Crees have signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, where they surrender their aboriginal rights.”

The Grand Council of the Crees argues that the James Bay Agreement would be invalid if Quebec separates because it is an agreement signed with the province of Quebec, not an independent country called Quebec.

Cliche disagreed. “It will still exist. It will still be valid. All existing treaties will be applied, enforced and recognized by the Quebec government. Legally, we are bound to that.”

Cliche downplayed a rift within the Bloc Québécois over the views of Daniel Turp, the chairman of the party’s policy committee and a professor of international law. Turp has repeatedly said publicly that First Nations have as much legal right to separate as Quebec, if not more.

Cliche said Turp is wrong and, besides, was merely expressing his own personal opinion.

“Turp is not the Parti Québécois. He has the right to his opinion and I respect that,” Cliche said. “The current government of Quebec has supported the territorial integrity of Quebec. It’s not just a PQ argument,” he added.