One must give credit where credit is due. Unexpectedly, this means the Quebec government under the current Parti Québécois administration. They have surprised and delighted me in their recent actions.
Most recently, Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, Yves-François Blanchet, has notified Strateco that he plans to “refuse to issue the permit for the Matoush underground exploration project” due to “a lack of sufficient social acceptability.”
This decision not to issue the certificate of authorization is astonishing and goes against the way things were done in the past. While this is not a done deal as Strateco has 60 days to respond (as of June 25, 2013) it is good news for the Cree of Mistissini.
Personally when I first heard of the “social acceptability” concept a few years back I thought of it as just more government doublespeak and was pleasantly disappointed to be wrong in this case, and to discover that the government actually meant what they said.
I was told the term “social acceptability” first came up as part of the Paix des braves Agreement and seeing it honoured gives the PQ administration credibility, and not only with the Cree people.
Naysayers may point out that Quebec may have been reacting to the court cases Strateco initiated against the government, but the end results speak for themselves. The fact that more than 300 Quebec municipalities oppose uranium exploration is certainly a political vote winner for an unpopular minority government. A decision that is beneficial in so many ways is a win-win situation unless you own Strateco stock. We know they will fight on but with fewer options than before.
Secondly, the passing of Bill 42: An Act establishing the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government and Introducing Certain Legislative Amendments Concerning the Cree Nation Government. This is a sign that racial or colonial attitudes have evolved for the better. With this legislation, both Cree and non-Cree inhabitants now have a say in how Eeyou Istchee is governed.
In addressing Quebec’s National Assembly, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said this will “benefit the Cree, the Jamesians and all Quebecers for generations to come.” He added, “To call this innovative would be an understatement.” Coon Come said that he had never seen such a governance partnership between Aboriginals and settlers anywhere else in the world.
Though Coon Come rightly thanked Premier Pauline Marois and her government for their leadership in adopting Bill 42, he acknowledged the unanimous support of all parties.
Quebec’s Minister of Regions, Gaétan Lelièvre, who piloted the bill through the Assembly, explained the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government, coming into existence Jan. 1, 2014, will be composed of 11 Cree representatives and 11 elected officials from non-Aboriginal settlements.
So there is credit due to all the people who made these two decisions that will affect us all. It just goes to show I shouldn’t underestimate the ability of politicians to do what is right for the people every now and then. This time they did it in a big way and one that will bring a better future for all of Quebec.