The cries of Cree unity had barely died away before four of the nine Cree chiefs met with Minister Guy Chevrette to talk about the suspension of MOU funding (News, page 5). Chevrette was the Quebec politician who suspended essential-services funding to the Crees under the guise of “we can’t negotiate while we’re going to court.”

Chevrette and PQ & Co. weren’t happy because the Crees were taking Quebec, among others, to the courts over their inaction with the effects of forestry on the Crees.

As most Crees were out on the land living up to their traditions, the four reversed the direction of the geese to fly south, crying foul over the forestry case. They said they were being penalized for the forestry case, which had nothing to do with them, according to reports. I guess they were saying, “We’ll negotiate because we aren’t going to court.”

I understand and know why. It’s simple… You need essential services. It’s simple… The legacy of the past made it policy to turn reserves into such utter hopeless hellholes that Natives would leave them to flock to the cities and become disenfranchised, hence “regular” Canadians.

It was genocidal and the legacy lives on today in the fact there is very little economic base in any Indian community without a casino. There have been many reports concerning the third- and fourth-world conditions on reserves. It’s nothing new, yet it is something the average Canadian doesn’t consider.

While millions of government dollars go to third- and fourth-world countries, Canada and by extension Quebec do not, cannot and will not opt to change the status quo. Instead, we have politicians shouting that First Nations in Canada live in tax-free paradises. These same politicians who will gladly cry genuine tears over conditions in a refugee camp will act defensively and take a hard line every time a United Nations report comes out decrying Canada’s actions with First Nations. “We treat our Natives far better than the States did,” is the sorry excuse.

Therefore, cutting the essential-services programs that had provided much-needed employment is an old tactic. The Quebec government knows this tactic. This much is evident as members of that government, such as Chevrette, were part and parcel of past policies.

The Quebec government can also afford to sit back and watch cash-poor Natives crumble before the onslaught of people crying for jobs, for better water, a better economy and action now. They can smile while chiefs have to come hat-in-hand looking for succor for their people. Then Quebec can play one chief off against another as they have been attempting to do.

Divide and conquer. Encourage factionalism. We’ve seen it all before, so why should it surprise us?

Why should the actions of the chiefs surprise us? They know, as you or I know, that when someone is poor and is counting on jobs to make a better life they’re willing to put up with b.s. After all, isn’t that the premise that made sexual harassment possible in the workplace? Women earning less than men but unwilling to go on welfare when they lost their jobs?

Like women, Crees should realize that to change things, it’s going to be a long hard and bitter fight but one Crees won’t win unless they stand together and end these little back-room dealings.