“This is to confirm formally that I have resigned as general legal counsel of the GCCQ/CRA effective today.”

So started a letter signed by longtime Grand Council lawyer James O’Reilly on Oct. 4. The letter was faxed to Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and every other Cree Chief.

In an interview with The Nation, O’Reilly said he is leaving the position of general legal counsel for the Crees, but not any specific Cree court cases. He will continue to work on those.

The legal counsel is responsible for managing legal campaigns and other lawyers for the GCCQ/CRA. “Simply put, I believe the position of general legal counsel in my case has become purely symbolic,’” wrote O’Reilly in his letter.

In our interview, O’Reilly explained that he hadn’t really been part of the process of determining Cree legal strategies for some time.

“The reality is I no longer have played the role now that I used to play for some time and that’s the discretion and prerogative of the leaders of the Cree Nation, so I just wanted to set the record straight and reflect reality,” O’Reilly told The Nation.

“These things are extremely understandable. People change, leaders change, administrations change and what I made very clear was that I’m prepared to work on very specific mandates as one of the Cree lawyers and continue with this as long as they want.”

He explained that he has legal commitments to other First Nations besides the Crees but couldn’t fully commit himself to that work due to his job as Cree general counsel.

“This is an evolutionary thing,” explained O’Reilly.

“It reflects more of reality and it’s not good-bye. There’s a changed role. Let’s all recognize that and I’m a resource they can still count on when and if they need me.”