It’s been an interesting few weeks watching the money come into the Cree communities. First there was the $70 million that everyone wanted a piece of. The communities took home $49.5 million. That’s good news for many who see this as more housing, more employment and generally a better life all around. The Heritage Fund, after being gutted a number of years ago, is seeing a new infusion of cash. This year it is $10.5 million and it’s good to put something away for a rainy day (it does rain a lot in Eeyou Istchee at times).
Perhaps the ones who are most disappointed are the ones responsible for the fixed obligations. Only $10 million was put aside for them. I know the Cree Trappers Association wanted $10 million themselves. They may end up with less than the $1 million they received last year. There are loans to pay back (to our own companies such as the Board of Compensation), forestry costs (Cree Quebec Forestry Board), a Rupert River environmental review to deal with, and costs to implement the Paix des braves Agreement.
Two relatively new organizations need funds (Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association as well the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association) as well as the Aanischaaukamikw Centre. Cree language and culture are asking for money. There are community centres to be built (the chiefs took care of this one).
The Elders Council, Youth Council, Washaw Sibi Association and James Bay Cree Communications Society are also looking for money.
There’s the Trapline Harmonization program. This program is to mitigate the problems with forestry, mining and dams. It needs serious funding to the tune of $ 1.5 million. That’s a little less than the lawyers are looking for with federal legal proceedings expected to run $1.75 million and the protection and enhancement of Cree rights looking for $750,000.
Finally there is the Job Creation Fund and Private Ventures Fund, which probably won’t see any monies this year. This section was to help with creating real economies within the Cree communities. The Private Ventures Fund was to assist Cree people to create or expand businesses on a local or regional level. This would have been decided by both local economic development officers and an organization to be created called the Cree Development Company. It was suggested that an initial amount of $5 million be set aside for this. The Job Creation Fund would see local jobs being created with an emphasis on culturally relevant or sensitive projects such as tourism. It was said that youth could learn life skills in this program and Crees could finally tap into the $38 billion spent on tourism in Canada each year. The Job Creation fund was looking for $3.29 million.
These are all great and/or necessary projects with serious needs. They share problems of chronic under funding. One cannot blame the chiefs for fighting for the bulk of the money as they have serious needs also in their home communities.
I can only hope though that if we are going to be getting more than $70 million (as promised by the formula attached to revenue generation in Eeyou Istchee) that we will remember that we have to fulfill the obligations of the JBNQA. We have complained before but now we have to be fair while policing ourselves.