It’s a dirty crime when the state starts to legislate ignorant and ethnocentric laws. In short, I feel that Bill 65 is nothing short of a racist policy designed to take Native self-determination back into the dark ages. The bill is intended to centralize all Quebec government decisions involving First Nations in the office of the Native Affairs Minister, Guy Chevrette.

Bill 65 only requires two more steps to be put into effect. The final steps are adoption and sanction, according to minister Chevrette’s office. According to a press attaché, the ministry is confident this bill will pass.

The bill reads in part, “The minister shall oversee the negotiation of every agreement between the government or any of its departments or agencies and a Native nation” or any of the nation’s affiliated groups. It says that any agreements must be approved by the government and signed by the minister.

Right now, the Cree School Board negotiates directly with the Education Ministry of Quebec.
We would lose if this bill becomes law because all decisions related to Cree education will have to answer to one man, one ministry. An ethnic ministry at that. Perhaps in the future we’ll see a Ministry of Jewish Affairs or other ethnic groups that are not pure “laine.”

The fact that this law is taking place without consultation with the First Nations in Quebec may very well make it illegal. The Grand Council of the Crees is worried about what effect this bill will have on its relationships with the Quebec government.

Even the Opposition Liberal critic on Native affairs has said in Quebec’s National Assembly that it could be unilaterally changing the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

There are other arguments that make sense to anyone with the least amount of common sense. Anyone can look at the past federal model of Indian Affairs and see it was costly and grossly inefficient. For a province that complains about the Feds so much, I can’t understand why anyone would want to emulate them.

The new bill would create an even longer process in any future negotiations because two ministries would be involved – a complication that could be disastrous in serious ways. Take the example of the rise in Cree diabetes. As it stands, the Cree Health Board deals with the Ministry of Health, which is in the best position to understand the issues. With Bill 65, the Ministry of Native Affairs is the one who decides and the more knowledgeable sources are left out in the cold.

Not only that but Minister Chevrette has all the power and none of the compassion. If you take his actions concerning the Cree forestry case and the suspension of the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding monies, and then apply them across the board to every sector of Cree life, it’s a huge problem. The control over our lives would be intolerable. It may even fall within the terms of genocide as understood by the United Nations – the enforcing of a will and way of life upon a people whether they want it or not. The Crees could literally be starved into submission to our Quebec masters.

This is the dark side of a bill that Minister Chevrette says is to “promote the establishment and maintenance of harmonious relations with the Native nations and communities of Quebec.”

Fight it. Phone your chiefs to talk about this issue and phone your member of the National Assembly.

Once again the numbers are: André Pelletier (Abitibi-East) at 418-644-4869 or
Francois Gendron (Abitibi-West) at 418-646-8741.