Non-Native mayors and forestry officials unleashed a racist tirade against Crees at a meeting in Matagami to discuss logging on Sept. 22, according to reports.
“It was interestingly shocking. It was quite disturbing,” said Romeo Saganash, the Cree negotiator with Quebec, who attended the meeting.
The meeting was organized by the Quebec government to inform non-Native northerners about the latest negotiations on forestry with the Crees.
It came just two days after Quebec’s most recent offer, which Crees are already saying isn’t much of an improvement over what Quebec was offering last year.
The mayors and mill heads didn’t like Quebec’s proposal to set aside a percentage of jobs in forestry for Crees, according to one source. “They didn’t like Crees getting jobs,” he said.
Crees hold less than 1 percent of jobs in forestry in a region where they make up 40 to 45 percent of the population.
Hardly anyone present in the room dissented from the anti-Cree onslaught. In the face of the tirade, the government officials reportedly didn’t bother defending the Crees. Instead, they promised to put a local representative on a proposed forestry authority, which would issue cutting permits in Iyiyuuschii.
The authority would have equal representation from Crees and Quebec.
Sam Etapp, head of the Cree forestry campaign, expressed dismay about the “Indian bashing” in Matagami. “I’m not surprised by that type of reaction. Generally they have always had a racist attitude to Natives. They’ve always tried to undermine and marginalize the Crees,” he said.
Lebel-sur-Quévillon Mayor Gérald LeMoyne, who reportedly was critical of Crees, was out hunting and could not be reached for comment. He is an employee at the forestry giant Domtar, which is Waswanipi’s joint-venture partner in the Nabakatuk sawmill.
Other mayors and Quebec officials also could not be reached.
On Sept. 25, Grand Chief Ted Moses met with Cree chiefs and his forestry advisors to discuss Quebec’s latest offer. They told the Cree negotiators to go back and get a better deal.
“It’s not significantly different from last year’s offer,” said Etapp. “There is a slight increase in the monetary offer, but otherwise everything is the same.”
Quebec is still balking at one of the main Cree demands – that the deal be a complementary agreement to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This would protect it from arbitrary changes by future governments.
The Sept. 30 deadline for a deal is fast approaching. Etapp said he wasn’t hopeful about a last-minute deal. “Personally I am not too confident,” he said.
Etapp refused to release the dollar value of the latest Quebec offer or of last year’s offer while negotiations continue. Another source said the two offers are only about $500,000 apart. In the latest offer, Quebec has proposed to set up a $ 10-million economic-development fund, which would provide compensation to trappers and hunters for past forestry damages.