Matthew Coon Come
“Today, 32 years after entering into Canada’s first so-called “modern” agreement, the federal Crown has finally arrived to meaningfully address the obligations it assumed when the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed in 1975. The James Bay Crees are not receiving some kind of a gift today. We are being afforded a minimal opportunity to finally begin to benefit from our ancient birthrights as a people. We are the owners and occupants of this Territory, and since King Charles gave our land to the Hudson Bay Co. in the 1600s, we have been living under an absentee colonial regime. Today, this colonial era finally begins to come to an end. It’s about time.”
To our young people:
Today is another milestone, another achievement for the Cree Nation but yet,
The Greatest story has not been told yet
The Greatest song has not been sung yet and
The Greatest film has not been made yet
Our young people, the future will do greater things than we did. They will write new chapters and provide new leadership with a greater vision and a bigger dream.
I have full confidence that they can build on the foundation that we as Cree leadership have laid.
Drs. Ted Moses O.Q.
My Comments on the New Cree/Canada Agreement:
The new Agreement with Canada is Phase II of the Paix des Braves Agreement. It would have been finished two years ago if there hadn”t been an election, but it is good to see that it is now signed. It brings funding for parts of the James Bay Agreement that Canada refused to implement.
The James Bay Agreement problems started soon after it was signed in 1975. They were the reason we went to the United Nations to fight for Indigenous rights and to court, as we couldn”t trust Canada or Quebec to respect our rights. Our people were sick and dying due to the lack of sewer and water systems. We lobbied in Ottawa for improvements and all communities got sewer and water services, some airports were built and the Cree/Naskapi Act was passed in 1984 – leading to another long fight for funding. But, governments still owed us housing, job training, police and justice services, community centres, and other things.
History proved that Canada and Quebec would not look after our interests.
By 1989 Quebec wanted to build more dams, but neither it nor Canada had lived up to the James Bay Treaty. Our fight against the dams showed them in 1994 that they had better respect the Crees or they might lose again.
In the Paix des Braves, we took over many of Quebec’s obligations to us and the money to implement them for 50 years, as we would decide. The deal also set the price for Canada to settle its obligations.
In the new Agreement, like the Paix des Braves, we take over many of Canada”s obligations to us, but the Canada money is only for 20 years.
The new Agreement also settles all claims for the past. When the money comes in, many communities may have claims, but this Agreement cannot pay for them. Every cent is accounted for and any spent on one community’s past claims, will be a loss to all communities because the money for future housing, sewer and water systems and the other obligations of Canada to all Crees will be reduced. The more we put into such claims, the less Canada will pay when the Agreement is renewed. That’s the deal! We now face new threats. The MBJ claims Eeyou Istchee, so who will stand up to them?