Got a great idea. Let’s all just stop whining about Quebec’s desire or apparent inability to live up to its obligations and duties under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Instead of taking them to court to get them to live up to those obligations, as for example outlined under the JBNQA and the recently suspended Memorandum of Understanding, let’s do something more conducive to making them a reality!

The idea is simple. Let’s take them to court and directly link the money owed to the Crees to the dams. Certainly it can not be denied the Quebec government and Hydro-Quebec received full benefit from the JBNQA deal.

Each year Hydro-Quebec announces how much “profits” it has made.

This is the prime fallacy. In reality these are not profits! In return for allowing the La Grande hydroelectric complex we were supposed to get something. In fact, under the JBNQA very detailed sets of legal obligations on the parts of Canada, Quebec and Hydro-Quebec were defined.

Not all of the conditions and obligations of the deal have been fulfilled – except on the part of the Crees. We had the land drowned, our environments changed and affected, we experienced the mercury poisoning of a quarter of our traditional food supply, underwent culture shock, etc.

Meanwhile, in the past three years Hydro-Quebec has reported profits of $520 million (1996), $786 million (1997) and $679 million (1998). (They claim they would have made $950 million last year without the ice storm and warm weather). Hydro-Quebec received gross revenues of $814 million in 1998 from electricity sales to the U.S. made through a dedicated line that originates in the Cree territory.

Every year Hydro-Quebec hands over a share of those profits to its one shareholder… the Quebec government!

Since Quebec can’t, won’t, isn’t able to or perhaps capable of fulfilling its obligations to the Crees as defined and agreed to under the JBNQA, then the Crees should just stop the Hydro-Quebec “profit” money in mid-transfer to Quebec, fund the obligations ourselves and give the left-over monies to Quebec!

Of course this would necessitate court actions but the evidence is clear when it comes to proving that Quebec is not living up to its obligations. The zero-deficit budget the PQ government is so proud of has not only been at the expense of health and social services but is in fact built practically on the backs of Crees. It is time to stop this once and for all.

The strangest part to the twisted story of Quebec’s suspension of funding to the Crees came on March 23. In the National Assembly, two ministers spoke out on this subject. One, the Quebec Health Minister, said his department does not resort to that type of blackmail and they are still negotiating with the Crees. Then Native Affairs Minister Guy Chevrette says the suspension of negotiations between the Crees and his Secretariat involves the forests only.

One must think that Chevrette and former federal Solicitor-General Andy Scott flew on the same plane together. Chevrette sent a letter to the Grand Chief in which he plainly stated that the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding negotiations (which are tied to dams not forests) are suspended.

Does this mean Quebec has realized that its suspension of the MOU was unwise? One can only hope so.

As they say, fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me. I think the days that Crees are played for fools are long past!

Kudos to those all around for standing up for basic human rights and making sure that they apply to the Crees as well.