The chairman of the Municipalité de la Baie James doesn’t think Crees have what it takes to police their own territory. “They absolutely don’t have the competence right now for the work that we want to give them,” Lemoyne said in the December 3 edition of the Journal de Montréal.
The insult has angered the Grand Council of the Crees. “It was racist and intolerant,” said GCC Executive Director Bill Namagoose.
Namagoose is currently preparing a case against the MBJ to try to get the Quebec government to repeal Bill 40, which gives outright control to the MBJ over much of Cree territory.
“It helps our case and it hurts his,” said Namagoose. “The Quebec government really needs to acknowledge what Mr. Lemoyne is saying.
“We’ve been policing the Cree communities and surrounding areas for many, many years,” Namagoose continued. “All the Cree constables have the proper training and are recognized as full-fledged constables under Quebec law. They have the same status as SQ officers and other police officers in Quebec.”
The policing agreement signed between Quebec and the Crees this year has yet to be ratified and implemented in legislation adopted by Quebec’s National Assembly. Lemoyne’s comments were part of the MBJ’s lobbying efforts to hold off on passing it through the National Assembly before Christmas.
Reached by the Nation, Lemoyne claimed his words were taken out of context. He denied calling Cree police incompetent. “I didn’t say that and I won’t say that. I think at this time I don’t know what the training is to be a Cree policeman so I cannot say they are competent or not.”
The Journal de Montréal also reported Lemoyne as saying that Crees are unable to speak French and that this would cause problems. “Imagine the kinds of trouble that could happen during an incident,” Lemoyne told the newspaper. “It’s the same as if the Kahnawake Mohawk Police patrolled neighboring municipalities. It doesn’t make sense.”
But Lemoyne says the paper wrongly interpreted his comments.
“The journalist said that, I didn’t,” Lemoyne told the Nation. “I said, ‘A lot of them speak French, but if they don’t, we’ll have to see what we can do with that.’ I don’t want to fight with the Cree that’s for sure. We live on the same territory.”
Lemoyne said more talks between the Crees and various levels of government are needed before the policing agreement is put into effect. “At this time I don’t think the Crees are ready to give this service on all the territory,” Lemoyne said. “I’m not so sure the Cree police at this time can serve the whole region.”
Lemoyne expressed surprise after being informed that Cree police are trained just like Sûreté du Québec officers.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “The only thing I ask of the government is to postpone Bill 54 until after Christmas time so we can discuss it more together later on. I don’t think we have enough time before Christmas to do that.”
But Namagoose said Lemoyne hasn’t done his homework on the policing agreement.
“He’s totally misinformed about the whole situation,” said Namagoose. “We’re not out to police the entire territory. The agreement we have with Quebec is collaboration between the Cree constables and the SQ. The Crees need the resources of the SQ and the SQ needs the resources of the Crees to police this territory.”
Namagoose stopped short of saying what the Grand Council would do about Lemoyne’s remarks.
“Sometimes you respond and sometimes you let the spokesmen hang themselves. In this case I think Lemoyne hung himself.”