Passions are running strong because of the upcoming Cree lawsuit on forestry.
Cree trappers are pleased that something may finally be done, but for the logging companies,thousands of jobs and billions of dollars are at stake.
The Cree lawsuit, to be filed in May with Quebec Superior Court, will argue that Canada and Quebechave violated their promise to protect the Cree hunting and trapping way of life.. This promise iscentral to the James Bay Agreement.
The court action will ask for a permanent injunction halting all forestry activities by a dozencompanies in lyiyuuschii.
The court will be asked to declare the logging companies’ timber-supply licenses, known as CAAFs,and the Quebec Forest Act of 1987 illegal and unconstitutional.
“The linchpin of the agreement is that the Crees were supposed to be allowed to continue to trap andhunt,” said lawyer James O’Reilly, who is representing the Crees.
The lawsuit will also ask that forestry operations on Cree land be subject to environmental assessment,which isn’t the case now. The court action will not specify a figure for compensation, but reservesthe right to claim for damages later.
All Cree communities affected by forestry have agreed to the lawsuit, except for Waskaganish.Chief Billy Diamond has put off the community’s meeting with the Grand Chief for unknown reasons.
A lot is at stake here. Forestry is Quebec’s biggest industry. Cree officials estimate lyiyuuschiigenerates $1.2 to $1.8 billion in for
estry revenues each year with virtually no compensation to the Cree people.
“This is the Al DS to our people. It’s killing us,” says Paul Dixon, a Cree Trappers’ Associationofficial who sits on the Cree Forestry Working Group. “While they were assimilating us in theresidential schools, they were really working on our traplines.” Dixon said forestry has caused him andother trappers many “sleepless nights.” “Even my children are pestering me, asking if the white peopleare allowed to do this. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t want to raise them to hate anybody.”
Asked how he feels about the lawsuit, Dixon replied, “I’m the happiest guy in James Bay. It’s like wewon the Stanley Cup. I’m happy because my grandfather, who passed away, talked about it (forestry).”
But he is also cautious. “We have complained about forestry for the past 20, 25 years, and the way theleaders have reacted, or not reacted, makes me hesitant to feel too happy about it now. I’m a trapper.My instinct is to wait until I have a sure kill.” Yves Barrette, owner of Barrette-Cha-pais Ltd, amajor cutter on Cree land, isn’t pleased with the lawsuit.
“I’ve invested here to stay. They’re going to close me down,” he said, adding that the lawsuit couldthrow his 500 employees out of work. But he refused to comment further, saying., “This issue is verypoliticized. It’s the government that should respond.” Natural Resources Minister Guy Chevrette,asked by The Nation for his comment at a press conference, refused to give his views.