Crees can stand proud for defeating the Great Whale River Project, says the yearly report of the Grand Council of the Crees and CRA.
But Crees will be also standing on guard against any attempt by Jacques Parizeau’s government to violate their human and national rights, the report adds.
“In 1971, the government of Quebec and Hydro-Quebec came onto our lands with a plan to destroy our waters and lands and take the trees and minerals from around us and under our feet. You Crees, our leaders were told, are squatters on this land,” says the report, which was released at the Annual General Assembly in Wemindji.
“Now just 20 years later, we are faced with a situation that the PQ government of the province of Quebec wishes to separate from Canada. Once again, in 1995, we are being told that we have no rights.”
Quebec’s plan to separate along with Eeyou Astchee, the Cree homeland, is unacceptable and will be opposed, promises the Grand Council.
“Only the Crees can protect their own rights. We are determined to do so.”
In his message, Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith draws a lesson from the campaign against Great Whale—he says people around the world took notice of the campaign because Crees were “open and honest.”
“We did not enter into this endeavour with ulterior motives of dealing monetary compensation agreements in exchange for our consent. This approach is built on the idea that we will lose,” he says.
“The lesson of the Great Whale fight is clear. When Native people raise the standard of debate, a worldwide audience is there to listen and support.”
It is only unfortunate Quebecers will never be told Crees saved them over $1 billion in foreign interest payments this year by getting Great Whale cancelled, says executive-director Bill Namagoose in his message.
Cree efforts to defeat the project came at great cost to the Cree Nation in terms of resources, work and time, he says, but those efforts have been both trivialized and demonized.
“Proud institutions and politicians are not supposed to be defeated by a small group of First Nations people. We are supposed to orchestrate an acceptable level of protest and then be defeated. It also seems to be extraordinary when First Nations people are successful at such a scale. Why is this? “We must never be apologetic nor intimidated by powerful government and other institutions when they react in this manner to our successes. To do so would be very self-defeating.”
The report also discusses Ottawa’s gun control bill, which is now on its way for approval by the Senate.
The Grand Council and other First Nations governments succeeded in getting the law changed to say it isn’t intended to affect Aboriginal and treaty rights. Changes were also made in the borrowing and lending rules which will make it easier for traditional practices to be maintained.
In September, the Grand Council will address the Senate to seek other amendments.
The annual report is available from the Grand Council’s National Office Nemaska (819-673-2606).