Peace and Prosperity in Troubled Times: The “Paix des Braves” one Year Later, A Message to the Cree Peoples from Grand Chief Ted Moses
It is now one year since the New Agreement with Quebec, come to be known as the Paix des Braves, was signed by Premier Landry on behalf of Quebec and myself on behalf of the Crees. At the time the Twin Towers Tragedy of September 11, 2001, was still fresh in our minds. Today, we are again troubled by thoughts of war and the world’s economy is in a recession with high levels of unemployment and instability. In spite of this, our New Agreement is beginning to bring us the benefits of making peace.
Economic benefits are beginning to come to the Cree communities and to the Territory from the resolution of long standing differences that we had with the Government of Quebec. Serious differences still persist and strain our relations with Canada, who continues to deny many of the obligations made to us in 1975 in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. I will return to these matters momentarily, but I first want to mention some of the positive developments.
At last, we are beginning to think about our communities, jobs, training, some projects for real environmental protection and about a positive participation of the Cree People in the development of our ancestral lands, Eeyou Istchee.
In 1975 it was clear that both Canada and Quebec would invest in the infrastructure of the Cree communities and in other community development projects including housing, community centers etc. As a result of our taking over from Quebec the implementation of these aspects of Section 28 of the Agreement, we have now begun to invest more in the communities. As the funding under the new Agreement increases, so will the funding available for these things. We have made an offer to Canada designed to increase the amounts that it would invest in these and other matters and Canada is considering whether to negotiate with us or to continue to fight us in the courts.
The New Agreement has brought employment opportunities to the Cree communities. We now have two-thirds of the jobs on the construction of the Eastmain 1 Project, over 200 jobs as a result of the Agreement we signed and as a result of the work of the Cree Business Consortium. This number will increase as the work progresses. In addition to this, we are in the second year of the implementation of the Territorial Programs under the Cree Human Resources Development Department. This program was specifically negotiated with Canada to get Crees into employment with Hydro Quebec/SEBJ, with sawmills in the Territory, into jobs in mining, construction and tourism. The team hired to implement this includes the experienced Michael Petawabano, the very talented Abel Jolly and Irene Neeposh wha has shown her creativeness and ability in her previous undertakings. They are just now beginning to set up relations with the non-Cree companies in the region, so we can look forward to a break-through in getting some Crees employed in these industries. This year the largest investment under this program is in tourism for the training of Crees to run the new Mistissini hotel and marina.
The forestry regime is now being set up. For the first time Cree Ntoho Outchimouch and Forestry Companies are meeting with the support of the Cree-Quebec Agreement, to apply new rules for cutting in the Territory. Many Cree hunting territories will not be cut this year, as forestry operations must be more evenly distributed than they were in the past. In addition to this important work, progress is also being made in discussions on the Albanel-Témiscamie-Otish Park and Reserve and on Muskuchii south of Waskaganish.
All these things are happening as a result of the Agreement and of the efforts of people in all of the communities. Discussions on past obligations continue with Hydro Québec, mediated by former Premier Lucien Bouchard. We will also soon have to decide whether or not to go ahead with the La Sarcelles Dam, which if we build it, will be a major project for the Cree companies.
The Crees who are coming out of school need the opportunities created by all of this activity. Each year close to 200 youth start their search for employment. Moreover, 30 to 40% of the Cree workforce is under-employed or unemployed. Up to 1,700 Crees need jobs now. Each year on the Territory over 900 forestry jobs are opened as new jobs become available and as people retire or leave their present employment. Mining has a great potential and the Apitsiiwin Agreement with Hydro Quebec sets aside funding for young Crees to train as operators and technicians on the hydro dams. Moreover, new Cree businesses including tourism and construction companies promise to open up new employment potentials. It is up to us to make the development of Eeyou Istchee benefit ourselves.
Last year we signed the New Agreement with Quebec because it represented an unprecedented opportunity for the Cree People. Sometimes an Agreement like that can take years to complete. The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement took over three years, counting the court cases and two years of negotiation. The offshore islands agreement was discussed in 1976 and 1977 and has recently been the subject of another three years of discussion. The discussions with Canada to implement the James Bay Agreement have been on and off since 1980. Still today, Canada is unsure whether to commit to implementation of its obligations to the Crees in regard to governance, economic and community development, policing, justice, and environmental protection. When the opportunity came along in 2001 to negotiate an agreement to clear up many of these same problems, at least with respect to Quebec’s part, many of the Cree chiefs, the former Grand Chiefs and also myself could not turn this down. Moreover, it was to be the largest financial agreement ever signed between an Aboriginal Nation in Canada and any government, whether federal or provincial.
Of course, the decision was unsettling for many. It was an important decision and it was an opportunity that might well have died, if we had delayed. Other governments might not have supported this agreement or other factors might have killed the opportunity. If you stand around too long with your finger on the trigger, the moose will run away. My greatest wish is for the Agreement to help everyone and for the Crees to work together to overcome any differences caused by the enormity of the decision that we made. I hope that we will use our new resources to build our communities and also our Cree Nation so that we will continue to be strong. The agreement is a tool that we can use to make something for ourselves. But in order for it to work for us, we have to use it for positive goals.
Since signing the Agreement our relations with the Quebec government and with the Québécois have improved. Generally, people in Québec feel that the New Agreement between Québec and the Cree Nation is good for Québec and the economy of Québec. In a poll conducted in July 2002, confirmed that 70% of Québécois felt the New Agreement would have positive impacts on Québec and its economy.
More recently, during the hearings of the Parliamentary Committee on the Proposed AIP with the Innu, the majority of the briefs and submissions to the Committee made reference to the JBNQA, the Paix des Braves or both as model-agreements. Such comments came equally from the aboriginal and non-aboriginal organizations or individuals.
Another impact, which is directly related to the New Relationship with Québec, is the open and genuine collaboration and cooperation we now enjoy with government officials at every level.
The various Ministers, and the Premier of Québec, have never been so accessible for the Cree leaders as they have been since the signing of the New Relationship Agreement. The Cree Nation and its leaders are recognized as political trailblazers for other nations in Québec and around the world.
This year we will seek peace also with Canada. It is time for Canada to follow through and keep its promises for the development of the Cree Nation in Eeyou Istchee Quebec.
Construction and supply Contracts by HQ
Camps and infrastructure installation to date 12,157,000
Supply & Service Contracts to date 7,759,000
Construction contracts to Cree companies 44,975,000
Total contracts to date 64,891,000
Cree Personnel contracts/contract/Paid to date
Chisasibi 341,452 58,318
Eastmain 667,329 294,541
Mistissini 667,329 698,896
Nemaska 667,329 396,914
Wemindji 415,458 146,384
Waskaganish 667,329 409,813
CRA 178,863 70,313
CTA 176,328 67,404
Totals 3,781,417 2,142,583
Goods and services from Cree companies 1,712,661
Cree Aviation company services 6,626,558
Total service purcahses 10,481,802
Re: Final Agreement respecting the New Relationship with the Government of Quebec (Paix des Braves)
One year later,
Ther area has been quite busy during the past year. With the construction of the EM 1 access road and camp, there is an increased number of people coming into the region (both native and non-native) and I am certain even more will come. It is possible that during the peak of the development phase within the next decade, we could expect a regional population of approximately four thousand people (seven times our present community population).
The on-going studies relating to the Eastmain 1-A Generating Station and Rupert Diversion have been quite intense during the past summer and they are starting to get underway again.
I must say there has been quite a change in the approach that Hydro-Quebec and SEBJ have used to inititate this project, all in accordance with the spirit of the negotiations that resulted in the various agreements with the Cree Nation of Eeyou/Eenou Istchee. Our people are more involved than ever in the new development that is going on around us and not just the ‘mere spectators’ of the past.
The implementation aspects relating to the various agreements that were signed has been a preocupation of many, as these require formal legalities in the set up of the many companies, boards, corporations, etc… areas the Cree Nation has found to be a continued way of life.
The trappers are being continually consulted for their knowledge and expertise with respect to these studies regarding land use and expected impacts. The young people are actively working with the various consultants engaged by SEBJ to do these studies. I recently visited Camp Nemiscau and also the initial camp construction at the EM 1 site and I was amazed at the number of Cree people working in these camps and on the access road construction. I understand there was some early ‘growing pain’ that are normally associated with native and non-native people working together, but these have settled down somewhat and I have to commend the respective parties from both sides in reaching solutions which seem to address the various situations. There are a lot of working relationship issues that will need to be ‘ironed out’ and I understand these are being attended to accordingly. There is a willingness to work together. This is the way it should be.
The initial funding we have received ont the New Relationship Agreement has enabled us to extend our community infrastructure in preparation for new housing development.
Locally, at the community level, we will and have started to anticipate the many social impacts we may face – with respect to the new development that is going on around us. The idea of setting up a ‘Liaison Committee’ to deal with these possible impacts has been talked about and we certainly have a lot to learn from the past experience of Chisasibi.
We are also planning to hold a major orientation exercise within the community to brainstorm and anticipate the many economic spin-offs that may arise from this new development. We will be looking at how our community members can mobilize to take advantage of the current situation bearing mind our small population.
Therefore, in a nutshell, things are happening and we are involved and we must continue to be involved. We owe this to our present generation and hope for future generations.
Chief George Wapachee
Cree Nation of Nemaska