The Route du Nord, a road running from Nemaska to Chlbougamau, was to bring many benefits to the Crees. The residents of Nemaska would be able to shop in less expensive stores, inland Crees would be able to get to Chisasibi easier as well as other coastal communities, Crees would get construction jobs building the road and Cree Construction would get a lucrative contract which would see other Cree businesses and communities getting a piece of the action in the form of sub-contracts.
The Quebec government awarded the contract to build the Route du Nord to Cree Construction. In an unusual business move, Cree Construction agreed to be the environmental and social-impact assessment proponent of the government’s road. Cree Construction also agreed to get all the necessary permits and authorizations for the road. This is not the usual practice when the government gives out a road construction contract. When Cree Construction conducted the review process, it looked at bridges separately from the cumulative effects of the road.
An official from the Cree Trappers Association was assigned to consult with the tallymen and trappers that would be affected. The tallyman’s role traditionally was as caretaker for a particular section of land and he was always consulted on any action happening on that land.
The construction of the Route du Nord saw six tallymen from Mistissini being consulted. But somehow the CTA official overlooked extending the same privileges to the tallymen from Ouje-Bougoumou and Nemaska.
Freddy jolly was one of those tallymen who fell through the cracks in the impact assessment and review process. He is still fighting against what he considers to be the destruction of the land in his care.
Freddy has been trying for months to get fair and just compensation for the damage done to his trapline, R-21 (see Time-line, page 11). He wants a collective compensation agreement that would include: an Indoho Fund (Hunting Fund) set up for the trappers affected by the Route du Nord, relocation of the trappers’ camps and cabins, and compensation for the damage done to their traplines.
Freddy wasn’t consulted on the road and whether or not the route would affect sensitive areas. His children are now afraid to go trapping and hunting on his land because of the carelessness of construction traffic and the dynamiters.
One day last fall, a foreman came to his cabin and told him to leave because they were about to start blasting a hill just 100 yards away. This was the cabin his father had passed away in a few years ago. The blasting continued for two months, well into November. Some days, it was so bad the earth would shake and the dishes would rattle in the kitchen.
Twenty-four hills on R-21 have been blown up—hills that Freddy once used in his traditional pursuits. His family has been traumatized, especially his children.
“After that, they didn’t want to go out of the cabin. They were scared when they blasted those hills,” Freddy remembered in an interview with The Nation.
“My kids are confused. It’s like you’re teaching my kids how to destroy land, not to protect it. As they get older, they’ll get confused because they remember. I don’t know what they were talking about when they were saying, ‘Future for our youth.’ Right now, they’re forgetting the tallymen. An elder told me, ‘You know, without the tallymen, we wouldn’t have the traplines.’ If all the trees are gone, I’m sure the teacher will have no tools to teach his kids.”
Freddy draws the outline of a plate with his fingers. “It’s just like a plate on my table. Right in the middle of the plate Cree Construction is drilling it and blasting it in my face. The animals we eat, it’s an empty plate. There will be no harvesting. If they keep destroying the land, there’ll be no harvesting. I’m sure the animals are going to disappear,” he said.
“When I’m on my trapline that’s where my healing is,” he said, but the road construction is like a disease.
“It’s like a cancer. First there’s the road, then the forestry companies, the mines, EM-1, NBR, drugs. The land will be polluted— the people, the animals.”
For Freddy, the surprising part is that the treatment he has received has not been from outsiders but rather from Cree businesses, bureaucrats and politicians, who should have understood him. All Crees know the importance of the land and the need to protect it. Many of the Crees involved were involved in negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Nemaska Chief George Wapachee told The Nation he and the Band Council don’t have a formal position on the dispute because they see it as a private matter between Freddy and Cree Construction to resolve.
The Nemaska Cree Trappers Association supports Freddy, but says he is acting mostly on his own, and while they provide services to the trappers, this does not extend to legal services. When the Route du Nord was proposed, the Cree Co-ordinating Committee on Hunting, Fishing and Trapping refused to be involved in any of the decision-making process related to the road, because they knew the trappers would be opposed to the project.
There is a precedent for traplines getting compensation for development. Waswanipi Chief John Kitchen told The Nation in February he fights for compensation when local trappers are affected by clearcutting.
What you can do
Write or phone your local Chief or Band Council, Grand Council of the Crees (Nemaska), Cree Construction (Montreal), CreeCo (Val d’Or);
Bring this matter up at public meetings so it doesn’t happen to other trappers in your area;
If you can, send a check or money order to: Freddy Jolly, c/o R-21 Trapline Defense Fund, 10A Rabbit Trail,
Box 53, Nemaska, Que. JOY 3B0. Freddy can be reached at 819-673-2545
The defense fund will help the family with their travel and legal costs so they can continue their battle. Remaining monies from the fund will be made available to other trappers and hunters seeking to continue their way of life.