For the first time since his election last September, Matthew Mukash met with Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
The meeting at Charest’s Montreal office on March 24 went well, according to Mukash. “It was more than I expected,” he said. “Because of my past positions on Great Whale and hydro electric development in general, Quebec was understandably nervous. Their reaction to my election was one of uncertainty and they were well aware that I had problems with the proposed Rupert River diversion. I think this meeting has clarified a lot of the points.”
The meeting allowed Mukash to reiterate his position that if the diversion doesn’t go through because of environmental concerns, then Quebec should forget about diverting the Rupert River once and for all.
“The first question they asked me was my position on the Paix des Braves and the EM1A Rupert River Diversion. We told them that the Paix des Braves was passed through a process of approval by the Cree Nation. That there was a referendum and the new leadership was bound by the decision of the people,” Mukash told the Nation.
“With respect to EM 1A we told them it was part of the Paix des Braves Agreement and the leadership will respect the assessment, because we understood that although there was consent for the project, it’s still subject to section 22 of the JBNQA on the environmental impact assessment.
“It was the same thing with Great Whale. They spent $400 million on the impact assessment and it didn’t go, so I suppose if it doesn’t go that they’ll have no choice but to respect that.”
Mukash said he told Charest that former Grand Chief Ted Moses had also made it clear the proposed diversion has to go through the assessment. “That’s the risk Quebec took in signing the Paix des Braves,” he noted.
According to Mukash, Charest agreed to look at the outstanding files addressed by the Cree leadership. These files include the Oujé-Bougoumou land contamination issue, Cree regional police, the Whapmagoostui access road and wind energy, among others.
The Washaw Sibi land allocation and recognition issue was also brought up, though Mukash said that is a federal issue since it was Canada who moved the Washaw Sibi people in the first place. Once Canada makes a firm decision, however, Quebec will follow suit and support the people of Washaw Sibi, Mukash said.
“On every point, he said that they would of course support the Crees in these files,” said Mukash.
Great Whale has been bandied about over the years, especially since Charest took power. Charest told Mukash that their energy policy is going to be released some time this month and that Great Whale is not a factor in determining the energy policy. He also added that Great Whale was not going to be an issue under his leadership.
“It came up three times during the meeting where he said Great Whale was not going to be considered for the future,” Mukash stressed.
Those present at the meeting included the aforementioned Deputy Chief Ashley Iserhoff, Abel Bosum, Cree-Quebec negotiator, Geoff Kelly, Indian Affairs, Pierre Corbeil, Minister of Natural Resources and Daniel Bienvenue, who is a member of the standing liaison committee, among others.