Six months of negotiations with Quebec on forestry appear to have collapsed dramatically.
Quebec has presented a final offer to Crees on forestry and other issues, but Cree officials say it’s not good enough.
“I would personally have a hard time recommending it to the Cree leadership. It would be a hard sell to the trappers,” said Abel Bosum, head Cree negotiator.
The negotiations took a bizarre twist on Dec. 14 that has added to Cree frustrations.
That was the day Quebec presented its final offer to Cree negotiators in provincial offices in downtown Montreal.
The meeting started at noon. Half an hour into the meeting, as Cree negotiators were still studying the offer, the government officials suddenly announced they had planned a press conference for that day to announce the offer publicly.
Even more odd, provincial officials refused to tell the Crees where or when the press conference was to be held.
Crees eventually figured it out — the event was held at 2:30 in Quebec City -but it was too late to get someone to the scene.
Cree officials angrily left the meeting in Montreal. “I think it’s a provocation,” said Bosum. “They decided to negotiatie through the media. We did not even have time to review the offer.”
Quebec’s offer includes:
• $50 million over five years on forestry, to be renegotiated afterwards based on forestry levels. The amount includes $10 million for a new Indoho Trappers Fund, which would assist trappers affected by forestry. It also includes $5 million for training Crees to work in forestry (Crees would be guaranteed 15 percent of jobs in the forestry sector after 10 years), $5.4 million for economic development and a $10-million “social fund” to compensate trappers affected by ongoing forestry operations.
The main Cree concern here is that there is no provision to compensate trappers for past damages. Also, Cree officials believe the $ 10-million social fund is not enough to sustain trappers beyond the current generation; they were asking for $30 million, which would be more in line with what was offered in past agreements signed with Hydro-Quebec.
• Crees would have to drop their 1998 lawsuit on forestry. Cree officials object to doing this given that there are no provisions for past forestry damages.
• Some aspects of the forestry deal would be enshrined under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Crees object that key elements of the deal will not be protected in this way.
• Quebec and Crees would create a joint committee to manage forest activites in lyiyuuschii. The problem, for Crees, is the president of the committee would be chosen solely by Quebec, rather than by joint appointment.
• Quebec will make available to Crees 5 percent of the annual forestry harvest inside of five years.
• Quebec will increase the number of wildlife conservation officers; the new positions will all be occupied by
• Quebec will give Crees $120 million over five years to settle all outstanding claims related to economic and social development issues in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This would include $80 million to settle what remains of the so-called “MOU” deal of 1998 and an extra $28.25 million.
• Crees would have to release Quebec from future claims in this area, again something Crees object to.
“It’s contrary to the understanding we had at the beginning,” explained Bosum. “The James Bay Agreement is a living agreement. There is no way we are going to cap the agreement.”