Three months with no pay for the executive of the Cree Trappers’ Association and there is no end in sight for the CTA’s budget problems.
“For now, we’ve exhausted everything. We don’t have many options left now,” says Edward Gilpin, CTA president.
“We’re surviving. But it affects the employees. They’re not sure if we’re going to be around. Also, a lot of members called in asking if the office would be closed.”
Gilpin said CTA operations have not been affected and the organization is not going into debt.
However, Gilpin, Simeon Pash and Thomas Coon were laid off as CTA executives when money ran out at the end of September.
The CTA will meet with the federal and Quebec governments on December 3 to ask for more funding. Feds, Quebec and Crees are supposed to each fund a third of the CTA’s budget under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
In fact, 70 per cent of the budget comes from the Cree side. Quebec pays for 20 per cent and the Feds fund 10 per cent.
Gilpin said the governments are “probably smiling” because their obligation to fund the CTA is “on the backburner.”
He was happy with a decision by the Cree Regional Authority executive to contribute $20,000 to help ease the CTA’s budget problems. Each Cree community is also supposed to contribute $20,000, but the CTA is still waiting for this money.
The lack of money has not only hurt CTA execs. Trappers feel it through the lack of programs and services, especially assistance to trappers with transport to more distant traplines, which is very costly.
“The trappers need more programs to assist them,”said Gilpin. The lack of money “makes it harder to go on the land. You can’t go far from the community. That’s the killer (transportation costs). It has a very detrimental effect on trappers. That’s why some of these younger people who want to go in the bush can’t afford to go.”
Gilpin also asked the Cree chiefs to put more effort into helping trappers lobby the governments.
“Do you protect the way of life or the community needs? The trappers have been waiting for 20 years. Their patience is bound to run out,” he said.
“It’s time to look at our cultural (side). We’re always saying: Protect our culture, protect our language. This is where I think they’re caught. Not enough pressure is put on the governments. This is why we’re frustrated.”
Transportation assistance was one of the main services the CTA was supposed to provide when it was originally set up. But the CTA hasn’t been able to help trappers in this area because of the lack of money.
Money for transportation now comes from the so-called “mitigatingfund” created under the 1986 James Bay Eeyou Agreement. The fund, which has $30 million left, was supposed to help Crees live with the effects of hydro-development.
In 2001, whatever is left of the ..litigating fund is supposed to go to the communities or aneconomic fund. Gilpin said money has to be left over so trappers can get help with transportation.He is also asking chiefs to set aside a guaranteed amount of money to pay for CTA executivesalaries.