Weren’t those quite the heady days? Cast your mind back to when a former Grand Chief and his team of experts were selling the Paix des braves deal. Grandiose promises were made left and right, tossed out like coins before a beggar. They were snatched up as they caught the light, mesmerizing us with visions of a brighter future.
“Do Crees need more housing? No problems to have a home for you and your family, my friend.”
“On welfare or unemployment? We’ll create jobs and train you for them. No only that we’ll help Cree businesses start and expand so those jobs won’t be just a one-shot project.” “Need an access road? It’s yours.”
“Community not recognized? A shame, we’ll fix that.”
“We’ll fund the CTA, the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association (COTA), a Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association (CNACA) and Native Friendship Centres. Just tell us what you what and it’s there, because this is Cree money and we can spend it any way we want…. Baring a few obligations we’re taking over for Quebec.”
“But don’t worry we’re getting a percentage of the revenues from any development happening in Eeyou Istchee. That’s revenue sharing my friends.”
Then a certain Cree legal eagle would sidle up to you and say, “This is probably worth billions, not just tens of millions. Don’t say anything, though.”
It all sounded too good to be true. In some ways it is. Crees have high-paying jobs on the EM-1 hydro-electric work site.
Training for the workplace is provided by the Cree Human Resources Development all over Eeyou Istchee.
The CTA has a higher budget than they have had in years though members say it still falls short of needs.
COTA seems to be off to a good beginning and the CNACA is starting up.
Then there’s the other side.
Cash-poor friendship centres still dole out much-needed services to Crees. Funding them was an obligation the Crees took over. To date the money hasn’t flowed.
Cree entrepreneurs looking for assistance as defined under Section 28.12 of the JBNQA haven’t seen a dime. The Cree Development Corporation was hailed as a new economic engine but has received a paltry $300,000. After salaries, infrastructure and rent, little is left to build the new Cree economies in the nine or so Cree communities.
Has there been an increase in housing as a result of the funding? It’s hard to tell without the transparency everyone talks about but can’t see.
When the $70 million gets doled out the chiefs take home the lion’s share. Then the Grand Council takes $8.4 million to divvy between the CTA, COTA, CDC, CNACA, James Bay Cree Communications Society, Youth Council, Elders Council and anyone else. Another $10.5 million goes to the Cree Heritage Fund.
When looking for money, most organizations submit proposals with budgets, needs, justifications, etc. Not so at the table when the $70 million is being divied up. About a third of them will send in something saying they used the money for this and that but there are no real financial statements.
Once again, we need a Cree auditor general to see what is happening to Cree money.
The real question comes down to one thing. Part of the Paix des braves deal saw the Cree/Quebec court cases over fully implementing the JBNQA disappear. What do Crees do now? Do we sue our own leaders for not fulfilling the obligations of the JBNQA that they agreed to take over on behalf of Quebec? Should there be a special general assembly to ask why they aren’t fulfilling these compulsory obligations?