Last week, an Agreement-in-principle was signed with the government of Quebec.The purpose of this Agreement-in-principle is to allow the Cree and Quebec to enter into a nation-to-nation agreement that will strengthen the political, economic and social relations between the parties. These relations are to be characterized by cooperation, partnership and mutual respect.
The relationship envisaged in the Agreement-in-principle remains based on the terms of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.The Agreement-in-principle will strengthen the JBNQA by providing for greater autonomy and greater responsibility on the part of the Cree Nation for economic and community development. The Agreement-in-principle is specifically based on the principles of sustainable development, partnership and respect for our traditional way of life.
The Agreement-in-principle proposes a new common vision of the future, a new relationship with Quebec and the reinforcement of Cree rights over all of our traditional territories.
I strongly support this Agreement-in-principle.The Cree leadership, through the Grand Council of the Crees, has fully endorsed it. The National Chief is also strongly supportive. Numerous aboriginal leaders have contacted me to offer their support for this truly historic Agreement-in-principle.
The Agreement-in-principle is presently being submitted to the Cree people through community consultations. With the Cree Leaders I will be visiting all Cree communities in the next few days. With the support of the Cree communities, we will be in a position to proceed to the next step, which will entail negotiating the terms of a Final Agreement by the end of this year.
We signed the JBNQA in 1975. It was a monumental agreement. It set a foundation for future relations. However the JBNQA requires political will to implement and the lack of this has led to confrontation. This disagreement and frustration was particularly acute in the areas of community and economic development. We found ourselves arguing over wordings, jurisdictions, details and processes for years without achieving the
message to each and every Cree person.
A message from Ted Moses
concrete results that the JBNQA envisioned. The Crees were essentially left out of community and economic development. Like for so many other aboriginal peoples, the governments were attempting to marginalize us from development activities and to restrict us to our category I lands. As time passed, our traditional territories were being developed without any serious effort to take into account our interests and our traditional way of life. The Cree leadership has been fighting for years to change this.
This new Agreement-in-principle provides for the recognition of our traditional and non-traditional interests over ALL of our traditional territories. As an example, the new adapted forestry measures provide for the taking into account of Cree traditional activities and a strong Cree voice over ALL the territory. Likewise, from now on, we will have a stake in the development activities that take place over ALL our traditional lands. We will have the means to participate in these developments should we so desire.
The striking features of this new Agreement-in-principle are both the clear recognition of the Cree as a Nation as well as the full recognition of our traditional and non-traditional interests in the whole of the territory. These aspects of the Agreement-in-principle are advances of historical proportions for the Cree Nation. This new Agreement-in-principle constitutes a strong and historic affirmation of Cree rights and, like the JBNQA, will raise the standards for aboriginal peoples everywhere in Canada.
This new agreement will provide the Crees with tools for facilitating economic and community development. It will allow us to decide our community priorities and facilitate our participation in the economy. Under this new Agreement, we will assume responsibility for our economic and community development. We will be accountable to ourselves and to future generations instead of Quebec being accountable to us for how it manages our affairs. This, in my opinion, is a true form of self-government.
Under the new Agreement-in-principle, we will assume for the next 50 years the
undertakings of Quebec relating to our community and economic development as set out under certain provisions of the JBNQA. We will receive from Quebec transfer payments in order for us to properly carry out these responsibilities in accordance with priorities and methods which we, the Cree, deem appropriate for our own development. These transfer payments will evolve in accordance with the evolution of the development of all natural resources, including the hydroelectric, forestry and mining sectors in our traditional territory. This is an historic turning point and a truly profound vision for the future.
We have been fighting with the governments of Quebec for years over the implementation of the Agreement. This has only too often come down to arguments over words and while we have argued in the courts, the people cannot get what they need to live. The agreement that we propose to negotiate from now to December is designed to solve these problems, at least with respect to Quebec. Rather than argue about words we will have funo.ng to go ahead with our plans. We will be able to assist our trappers and hunters through concrete measures to allow them to pursue their traditional pursuits over the land and to continue our traditional way of life that is so crucial to our well-being. We will also be able to begin building the facilities in the Cree communities that we want to build. We will be able to strengthen our national governing structures and will be better equipped to defend our rights. We will be able to augment our heritage funds in order to ensure that future generations have the means to carry out their ambitions. We will have the financial and legal tools to become strong participants in the development of the whole of the territory.
The Agreement is structured in a simple and straightforward way. The first and second years we will receive $23 million and then $46 million and after that $70 million each year for another 48 years. In future years this amount will increase as the value of the electricity, wood and minerals produced from our traditional territory increases. With this revenue, we will invest in projects and businesses to benefit the Cree people and to establish partnerships with others in the region and in Quebec. It will be up to us how we invest and spend this money. We will have to decide on our own priorities. The future impact of the money will depend on how wisely we invest it and on how well it is spent.
We will also assume some of the obligations of Quebec under section 28 of the JBNQA in regard to community and economic development for the next 50 years. The Agreement basically focuses on Section 28 of the JBNQA concerning economic and community development and leaves most other sections of the JBNQA untouched.
Thus Quebec will continue to fund for the Crees, pursuant to the provisions of the JBNQA, its share of the services and fixed assets stipulated in the JBNQA, including health care and social services, education services, income security programs, policing services, the administration of justice and various committees.
All of this will continue.
The funding that is provided under the Agreement-in-principle will be in addition to the funding provided by Quebec for these services.
We will turn the page on most of our claims against Quebec for past implementation of the JBNQA but we will reserve our right to enforce before the courts for the future both the JBNQA and the new agreement. Moreover, in relation to certain governance issues, to health and social services, to policing services and to justice related services, our court proceedings will be maintained. Quebec has agreed to set up negotiating tables in order to discuss addressing these needs through additional funding or new programs. We will suspend our court proceedings for three years in these matters in order to allow these new processes a opportunity to succeed.
In forestry, the Agreement-in-principle provides that the Quebec forestry regime will be adapted in a manner that allows better taking into account of the Cree way of life, greater integration of concerns relating to sustainable development and participation of the Cree in the various forestry operations planning and management processes. At the local level, joint working groups will be established for each Cree community in order apply the new rules and resolve conflicts. The tallymen will be closely involved in designating conservation areas for up to 25% of each trapline. The forestry road network will be developed in cooperation with the tallymen. Strengthened rules related to the protection of the forest will apply. Clear cuts will be for the most part replaced by mosaic cutting by which for each block of cut, an equivalent adjacent block of forest must be preserved. These forestry rules will also evolve over time through the work and recommendations of a new Cree-Quebec Forestry Board which will be composed of an equal number of representatives of the Cree and of Quebec and whose president will be appointed by the Quebec cabinet in consultation with the Cree. This new Board will make proposals to improve the forestry rules and related legislation and will review the forest management plans prior to their approval.
In the area of hydroelectricity and mines, all new projects will continue to be subject to the applicable environmental legislation and to the environmental and social protection regime set out in section 22 of the JBNQA. This section includes important guiding principles for ensuring the continuation of the traditional Cree way of life. The Quebec government will also facilitate and encourage agreements with the Cree in relation to remedial measures, employment and contracts for specific projects.
Our people have always been practical and used the land to make a living for their families. Moreover, we have always occupied the whole of Eeyou Istchee. It is only in the past few years that our people are living in communities year-round. While we still hunt over the whole of Eeyou Istchee, we have not been able to fully share in the employment created by mining, forestry, hydroelectricity, tourism and construction. This we must change! We must continue to protect and enhance our traditional way of life. However, we must also enhance all our opportunities throughout the territory and obtain a fair share of all of the occupations made possible by development on our lands. This too is part of our birthright!
The most difficult part of this is the granting of Cree consent for the concept of a partial diversion of the Rupert River and the construction of a hydroelectric facility near Eastmain. My own hunting territory will be impacted by the construction of the Eastmain dam. I am fully and personally aware of the impacts of these projects. I wish to point out that though Cree consent would be provided to the concept of these projects, this consent is not blind nor is it unconditional. These projects are not yet authorized and do not have any of the required government permits in order to proceed. These projects will still need to be subjected to full assessment and review under the environmental and social impact assessment processes set out under the JBNQA. In these processes, numerous alternatives and variants of the project will be studied and reviewed in close consultation with the concerned communities. The Crees will be full participants and these processes and will have a large voice in this matter. All applicable federal and provincial environmental legislation will continue to apply to these projects. All concerned governmental authorities will have to decide in light of all the information whether or not to finally authorize these projects, and if so at what terms and conditions. Should the projects meet all applicable environmental and social standards, then Hydro-Quebec will be obliged to assume the costs of all the remedial works required under the authorizations for these projects. Hydro-Quebec will also be obliged to respect its past proposals to the Cree relating to special remedial works and substantial employment and contracts relating to the projects While we have guarantees that there will be remedial works for the impacts of the projects should they eventually be authorized after full review and assessment, the real impact will be to our heritage and to our way of life. This is a spiritual connection that we have to this land and it is personal and important. We must remember that this is our birthright and we must use this in the way to benefit our families and our children. We must decide what is truly in the best interest of the Cree Nation. We must be guided by our hearts in this regard, but we must also be guided by our reason.
The funding flowing from the new Agreement-in-principle will impact ail Crees. It will be up to us to ensure that the benefits are long-term and extend to all of our people, and to our children yet unborn. We have the responsibility to build our Nation and to work for the benefit of all of the Cree Nation. I believe that we will find ways to accomplish our goals through this new Agreement-in-principle, through the JBNQA and through our continued struggle for our rights. I have spent all my adult life working for the recognition of the rights of aboriginal peoples in Quebec, in Canada and in the international arena. I will continue this work. This new Agreement-in-principle will facilitate this work by setting a new standard for the rights of aboriginal peoples.
I invite you to be a part of this important decision in our history. I believe that the final agreement that will be developed from the Agreement-in-Principle signed last week will be an historic opportunity and turning point for the Cree Nation.
Finally, some people might be concerned about what seems to be a short time for consultation on the agreement. We have an opportunity before us and our traditions tell us that we should seize opportunities before they escape us. Certainly we need to deliberate, but we must depend on our experience and wisdom. We must have the confidence to act with good judgment. We have been discussing these issues for years in our communities and before the courts. We have two months to discuss this decision while we reach a final agreement. We will be coming to your community, I encourage you to come to the meetings and to speak out. We need to make a decision that is the best one for the Cree People!
Ted Moses, Grand chief