Dear Grand Chief Ted Moses,
I am writing to formally give you my comments about the Agreement in Principle (AIP).
In my opinion this act is what Robert Kennedy, Jr. referred to in the movie Power; One River Two Nations: “(a) re-enactment of what has happened to First Nations for 500 years.” Let me explain exactly what I mean: without the Cree Nation’s natural resources the PQ could not gain the power to secede from Canada. The PQ know that they are the major political party in Quebec, but they also know that they are the minority in regards to land and natural resources. The PQ’s power is centred in the region of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. This is a resource poor area with the exception of the commercial ports along the Seaway including but not limited to Montreal and Quebec City. The PQ know that for secession to become a reality, the commercial viability of the Saint Lawrence Seaway may be jeopardized by Canada at the Maritime Provinces and Ontario. Ultimately, I believe that the PQ have realized that they need the Cree Nation on their side as well as our water resources, our mineral, our hydro-electric potential, our logging resources, our lands for development and all other resources available for exploitation.
The PQ have again become the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They have realized that their tactics for the last 27 years have not given them control over Cree Nation and our natural resources. Control of the Cree Nation will lead to control over our natural resources. If the PQ can gain control of and market our resources as commodities on the international market they will be able to generate the power and money needed to secede from Canada, thus creating the sovereign and independent nation they have been drèaming about for the last 27 years.
This threat puts the entire Cree Nation at risk. If we sign the AIP we are sanctioning the PQ, implying it is OK for the PQ to secede from Canada. If they accomplish this end we will have no rights under our current Nation State status with the United Nations and our rights under the Federal Government will also be compromised.
What will be gained by signing away the rights to the land? What exactly will the Cree get from the AIP? If we sign the AIP we will lose our Nation State status. For what? To finally be recognized by the PQ? We are already recognized by the UN and Canada. We will have no recourse with the Federal Government when the PQ fails once again to fulfill another “Agreement” like they have for the past 27 years with the JBNQA. And what if the PQ does secede? The UN won’t recognize us either because we will then be viewed as a revolutionary separatist movement.
Should we make friends with the PQ so that they will gain access to Cree natural resources, leading to power and money, and their final goal of secesion?
Why all of the sudden is there a change of heart after 27 years of legal battles? A new relationship between the Cree and the Québécois? Quebec Premier Bernard Landry is up for reelection. He said that his goal was to make Quebec a sovereign and independent nation. Has this changed all of the sudden? I don’t believe so.
The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. The provincial government of Quebec has demonstrated its disregard for the Cree Nation by its ACTIONS as well as its words. The Ministry of Environment refuses to consider and act on contamination from mines (which as you know has had devastating effects on the Ouje-Bougoumou community, and probably has similar effects elsewhere). As our consultants have also shown, the Ministry of Health has failed to demonstrate appropriate concern – or even scientific expertise – for the members of our population who have been harmed by mine contamination. Although the AIP pretends that the Cree will be treated as citizens of Quebec, these practical actions of the provincial government show that they treat us in a manner inconsistent with decent standards of health and public policy. Indeed, one of our American consultants (Professor Masters of Dartmouth College) has suggested that, BEFORE we even discuss or vote on the AIP, the Cree Nation should insist on a commitment from the Quebec government to test and treat our population for toxins from mining as well as to remediate mine contamination.
I believe that the AIP is a ploy by the Québécois led by Premier Landry (who clearly states his separatist political position) to gain control of Cree resources, and therefore gain the power and money to secede from Canada leaving the Cree Nation once again to suffer at the hands of the Québécois. The Québécois need another way to gain control. The tactics of the last 27 years are not working for the PQ.
I believe it makes them nervous that our people are beginning to get international attention and recognition in places like Durban, South Africa, the United Nations, at the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, and with the recent discovery of the “toxic crisis in Ouje-Bougoumou.” Premier Landry and the PQ realize that a new tactic is needed to “conquer” the Cree people and our resources in order to get the power and money needed to secede from Canada.
Do we need to sign our rights away to become recognized by the PQ? What is the benefit? Aren’t we already recognized by the UN, Canada and by the rest of the world as a Nation State? Quebec is a province and not a country.
Joseph Shecapio-Blacksmith, Environmental Coordinator, Ouje-Bougoumou Cree