Over the coming months there will be massive change to Eeyou Istchee’s economic structure. Twelve years after the signing of the Paix des Braves, the Grand Council of the Crees has announced that the implementation of a major component of the agreement will go ahead in 2014: the establishment of the Cree Development Corporation (CDC).
Originally, the CDC was intended to operate as a program to fund new business initiatives. Now, however, Eeyou Istchee’s major entities will be merged into the CDC umbrella, centralizing Cree economic power in the hands of directors appointed by the Grand Council and the government of Quebec.
The new corporation will control all Cree entities such as Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Company (CREECO), Cree Construction, Air Creebec and Valpiro, among others. The CDC will also administer funding from the 2002 agreement that established an investment fund worth as much as $300 million.
“The CDC is an evolutionary step forward in Cree economic development,” explained Rodney Hester, Implementation Manager for the CDC. “The realities have evolved and the Cree Nation needs to respond to these evolving realities.”
CDC’s new role is to function as the economic engine for Eeyou Istchee by investing in Cree businesses and promoting cooperation and growth in the local economic sector. The CDC will run as an autonomous entity directed by an 11-member board. The chairperson will be chosen by the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) in consultation with Quebec while the others will be comprised of five members selected by the province that will have one vote and five selected by the CRA with two votes.
The absorption of CREECO and the other entities into the CDC will happen in three phases with the expected completion of the process being dependent on several factors. “It could take anywhere from six months to a year or two years,” Hester said. “It all depends on how accelerated the approach is taken.” The first phase, which has already started, involves consultation among the various corporations.
By unifying the various Cree economic organizations, Hester says there will be increased focus on regional economic shortfalls, while contributing to the further growth of Eeyou Istchee. “Considering the housing shortage on a regional level and in the Cree Nation, the CDC could be part of the solution to address that issue,” said Hester in regards to some of the planned areas of investment such as renewable energy, forestry, mining and housing.
But the purpose of the CDC will not only be to invest and promote business growth in the region. It will also represent the voice of the Cree Nation when conducting all of their business transactions.
“The Cree position will be reflected in the CDC as well as communicated through the CDC,” said Hester. “This is the vision of the Paix des Braves. This is where we’re going. This is the way forward for the Cree government. This is what the future is.”
The projected the value of the Wyapschinigun Fund (also known as the Heritage Fund) is expected to be in the billions when all of the funding from the Paix des Braves Agreement is delivered.