Cree Trappers’ Association president Edward Gilpin is a happy man. After years of funding troubles, which culminated in the layoff of its executive for two months last year, the CTA is close to inking a new funding deal that promises some stability.
The deal, negotiated with help from the Grand Council of the Crees, will be signed with the Feds and Quebec in coming weeks. It is worth about $5.3 million over five years to the CTA, half of which was already promised in the Quebec MOU deal of last spring. The CTA has been waiting for the funds since the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
But the good news comes mixed with bad. Many trappers are concerned about Hydro-Quebec’s proposed Eastmain-Rupert hydro-electric project, and many don’t like what’s happening with the Cree forestry lawsuit, which was put on hold at a secretive chiefs’ meeting on Sept. 15.
The CTA may not have to worry about any more layoffs, but Cree trappers are seeing new threats to their lands.
Edward Gilpin took the Cree leadership to task for not providing enough information to the communities about its decisions. In the case of the “EM-1 ’’ Eastmain-Rupert hydro project, he said the chiefs shouldn’t sign any deal with Hydro-Quebec if they don’t take it to the people first.
Chiefs met in Montreal last week to discuss a partnership deal with HQ on the$2-billion-plus hydro project. There hasn’t been much consultation with the communities,and some chiefs reportedly don’t want the Grand
Council involved in the deal (see p. 5).
“In Eastmain, we appointed a task force to look at the partnership offer,” said Gilpin. “I was supposed to be on it, but I haven’t heard anything. We haven’t had a meeting – not that I know of.
“Personally, I have a lot of questions. What does it entail? This is the future we’re dealing with. It can’t be just decided overnight by the chiefs. It should be the whole community.”
Gilpin said he’s “not ready to go into any partnership unless I know what it entails. If it’s anything like the SDBJ, which we’ve tried to work with in the past, if that’s the kind of partnership Hydro is proposing, I don’t think it would work.”
As for the forestry lawsuit, Gilpin said he finds the Cree retreat confusing. “You don’t know exactly what deals were made to take these kinds of decisions. It seems to drop out of the air,” he said.
“We have too many side deals. There’s always another priority. I don’t know if it’s the priority of the trappers, community members, or the politicians. Me, I would have loved to see it (the lawsuit) go through.”
So how does the CTA plan to spend its extra money? Almost $4 million will go toregular operations, while $740,000 is to go to the CTA’s new offices in Eastmain andMistissini. The rest will go to new programs, like the CTA insurance fund, whichreimburses trappers for theft, fire damage and other losses at their cabins. Stillto be negotiated: $4.8 million to build a Cree fur tannery.