The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (jBNQA) created or contemplated a large number of organisms, authorities, committees or institutions devoted to allowing for the implementation of its provisions.
It is the opinion of Quebec and the Crees that the time has come to review the status, vocation, operations and even the necessity of maintaining the various bodies, and in particular, to do this with a view to increasing their efficiency and reduce their number, although at the same time supporting, to the extent possible, the development of a partnership between the Crees and the non-Native citizens in the region. After examination, recommendations could be made that certain authorities could be either abolished, combined with others, or have their mandates changed.
The Government of Canada and/or other parties could, as the case may be, be parties to these discussions.
The principal authorities created or established relating to the Crees and Quebec pursuant to the JBNQA and various Complementary Agreements are; the James Bay Eeyou Company (Complementary Agreement no. 7), the landholding corporations, the Cree village municipalities, the Cree Regional Authority, the James Bay Regional Zone Council, the Cree Board of Heath and Social Services, the Cree School Board, the advisory committees on police and justice, the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment, COMEX, COMEV, the Hunting Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee, the James Bay Native Development Corporation, the Cree Trappers Association, the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association, the Cree Arts and Crafts Association, the Joint Economic and Community Development Committee, as well as the Cree Hunters and Trappers Income Security Board. In addition to the authorities created by the Agreement, the mandates of certain of the signatories of the Agreement (e.g. SEBJ and JBDC) may also have evolved with time. The vocation of all these authorities could be examined as well.
The Steering and Coordination Committee will determine the way in which Quebec and the Crees will structure the necessary discussions to deal with this matter.
The discussions in regard to this issue shall take into account the following factors;
the provisions of the JBNQA and the necessity of having to enter into Complementary Agreements;
– Government initiatives;
the apporpriateness of involving other parties, if necessary.
the impact on existing legislation
It is known as “Issue No. 5.” It is the last section of the $15-million agreement between the Crees and Quebec and it has caused a lot of controversy in the Cree Nation. It gives Quebec and the Cree negotiator, Chief Billy Diamond, the right to review all the Cree entities and discuss streamlining some and abolishing others.
Why are the Cree leaders giving Quebec a say in deciding the future of Cree institutions? Shouldn’t Crees first decide their priorities themselves?
These are the concerns Ted Moses, Matthew Mukash and James Bobbish have raised. Below are excerpts from the Cree-Quebec agreement, Ted Moses’ letter and Chief Diamond’s responses (p. 27).
4. Parallel Negotiations
The two Parties do not object in any way to negotiations taking place that are not provided foreither in the Memorandum of Understanding of 1995 or in the present Implementation Agreement,and that are not part of the process established hereunder. These parallel negotiations coulddeal in particular, but without limitation, with the issues listed in the various progress reportsprepared by either party. The Coordination and Steering Committee should be kept up to date on theprogess of these negotiations.”
Ted Moses writes:
The final draft of the above-titled agreement (Cree-Quebec MOU) has now come to my attention. I believe that, as drafted, it raises a number of serious concerns.
I must recommend against the Crees signing for a number of reasons, including the following:
1) The Grand Council of the Crees is now negotiating with the federal government regarding the full respect of all federal obligations to the Crees, including the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
2) We have been very careful in these negotiations to assure ourselves that Cree rights will not be compromised in any way in the negotiation process.
3) We have established firm principles in accordance with the decisions of the Council/Board and the findings of the Cree Eeyou
Astchee Commission Report that there will be no “sign-offs” on permanent obligationsof the governments to the Crees and that no 1 “caps” or ceilings will be placed on any of theobligations that the governments have undertaken in the JBNQA or may have under
Cree law, under the Constitution or international law.
4) We have also insisited that it is the Crees who will establish Cree priorities, and not the governments, and that our negotiations will be based on Cree priorities determined through a Cree consultation process.
5) Our strict insistence on respect for the principle of protection of Cree rights has made our negotiations somewhat more difficult. Nevertheless, we have been successful, and have maintained our protection of Cree rights in the face of pressures from governments to give up some of our rights and benefits in order to gain immediate payments of badly needed funding.
6) We have refused to become “hostages” to our need for quick funding. I have personally seen what this has done to the First Nations under the Northern Flood Agreement in Manitoba.
7) I have explained all of this in my consultations with the Cree communities.
8) A fundamental position we have taken in the federal negotiations is that the Cree institutions — for example, the Cree School Board, the Cree Trappers’ Association, James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment, etc. – are the “backbone” of our Nation. We have taken the position that these Cree institutions have not been properly funded, nor respected, nor fully implemented by either Quebec or Canada. The Cree Nation has taken the same position before the courts in the Matthew Coon Come case and the recent Cree School Board case.
9) The Cree institutions are a fundamental and important part of the benefits to the Crees under theJBNQA.
10) I was very concerned to see that under “Issue No. 5 — Issues with respect to regional authorities” under the Addendum to the proposed MOU implementation agreement with Quebec, that the Grand Council of the Crees would agree to a review of the Cree institutions with Quebec to “reduce their numbers” and that “certain entities could be either abolished, combined with others, or have their mandates changed.”
11 ) How can the Crees review their own Cree institutions with the Quebec government before, and without ever conducting such a review with our own people?
12) How is it that the Crees are willing to sit down with Quebec to consider the elimination of Cree entities without consulting with those entities, their members and their own Cree administrations?
13) Where is our own respect for our own Cree Nation government?
14) How can we agree with Quebec to discuss the destruction of the Cree entities? Where is the balance? After all Quebec is not agreeing to discuss the elimination of its own Quebec government institutions with us. It never would consider such a thing.
15) Do the Crees realize that most of the funding we receive — over $150 million each year — flows through these Cree institutions and Cree entities, and that the Cree entities employ hundreds of Crees?
16) Are we going to kill or harm the Cree entities just so we can get a payment from Quebec to keep promises Quebec has already made in theJBNQA?
17) Why should we have to give up Cree rights and sign more agreements to make the governments keep the agreements they have already made? Each time we do this we lose more.
18) How am I, as the Cree/federal negotiator, supposed to negotiate increased funding and recognition for the Cree entities, while at another table, the Crees and Quebec are discussing the elimination
of the same entities I am mandated to strengthen?
19) How can we be signing this agreement with Quebec right after the report of the Cree Eeyou Istchee Commission, which calls for the strengthening of Cree institutions, not their elimination?
20) Finally, all of this is being proposed under a complementary agreement, which means an amendment to the JBNQA, a binding treaty.
21)I understand that both Canada and Quebec would like the Crees to sign away their rights in order to obtain a settlement. But we have agreed that it is more important to protect our rights for the future — to fight again another day — than to give up our rights to get something at any cost. It is not worth it.
22) Let us respect our own Cree institutions, as Quebec respects and strengthens its own institutions. But first, please, let us discuss this among ourselves before we make a mistake.
23) I am writing because of the major effect this will have on the Cree/federal negotiations, but also as a former negotiator of the JBNQA, a former chief, a forme r Grand Chief, a member of the Eeyou Istchee Commission and most of all as a Cree beneficiary. I only wish this had been brought to my attention sooner, so that I could have acted sooner.