For those of you who were wondering what the Niskamoon Corporation represents and how it affects you as a Cree person, we have the answers to your questions.
The Niskamoon Agreement was signed recently between the Grand Council of the Crees, the Cree Regional Authority and the nine Cree communities, and the Société de l’energie de la Baie James and Hydro-Quebec.
The result was the creation of the Niskamoon Corporation that has swallowed up other organizations pertaining to the Crees and Hydro such as Apatisiiwin Corporation, Nadoshtin Companee and the Eeyou Namess Corporation to name a few.
“In the past, we would create a corporation to administer each agreement that we signed,” said John Paul Murdoch, the secretary for Niskamoon. “Considering that we have 12 in place that made for a lot of different corporations. So what was happening for example was the band councils didn’t know who they should send project proposals to. By amalgamating everything, it’s automatic that it’s sent to one place.”
Another plus to the creation of Niskamoon is better communication with the people and more manpower to work for the people. “In the past we had many people sitting on the various boards of directors,” Murdoch said. “So we had a lot of people to make decisions, but not a lot of people to carry it out. The Grand Council along with the chiefs, decided to create the Corporation that would see only eight people sitting on the board which meant staff in every community. That way in every community you will have someone you can go to to find out information on the different agreements.”
Murdoch went on to say that these representatives within the community are mandated to sit down with the people and draft up possible project proposals.
Some of Niskamoon’s principal objectives:
1. To facilitate, simplify and speed up access to the benefits, measures, resources and programs under the Cree-Hydro Quebec Agreements for the Crees, the Cree communities and for other Cree entities;
2. To provide a more efficient framework for cooperation between the Crees and Hydro-Quebec in respect to the implementation of the Cree-Hydro-Quebec Agreements;
3. To bring better coherence to the implementation of the Cree-Hydro-Quebec Agreements;
4. To regroup under the Niskamoon Corporation large parts of the administration and management of the Cree-Hydro-Quebec Agreements.
Niskamoon currently employs three regional coordinators and one representative in each community for a total of 12 workers. That number could change in the future, says Murdoch, depending on what each community requires.
There are various training programs available, but they had not been released by the Nation’s deadline.
“Right now we’re taking a wait and see approach,” Murdoch said. “We’re starting out small and we’ll respond to needs as they come along.
The programs available include:
The Remedial Works Program: A Regional Coordinator in collaboration with Local Coordinators shall administer funds for the development, implementation and monitoring of remedial works throughout the territory for dealing with the impacts of hydro-electric development whether it is due to the actual hydro-electric structures or due to the related infrastructure.
Fisheries and Health Program: Another Regional Coordinator, in collaboration with Local Coordinators, shall administer funds for the development, implementation and monitoring of projects aimed at restoring Cree fisheries. Hydroelectric development did have a negative impact on Cree fisheries and funds have been set aside to deal with the issue of restoring Cree fisheries in a manner that considers the mercury issue related to hydroelectric development. Further, with a view to informing the population and managing health issues, the same coordinator as representative of the Niskamoon Corporation will work with the Cree Health Board and Social Services of James Bay to address health issues related to diet and possible contaminants that can be found in the environment.
Training and Employment: A regional coordinator in collaboration with local coordinators and principally the Cree School Board will administer funds which have been set aside for the purpose of assisting Cree individuals in accessing specific high tech employment opportunities with Hydro-Québec. Hydro-Québec has undertaken to immediately hire those Cree individuals who become qualified.
Further, funds have been set aside for assisting Crees to gain employment in the construction of the current EM-1 project in the form of incentives for entrepreneurs that hire Cree labour.