It was the first symposium of its kind to hit the north. The “Gateway to Building Economic Channels” drew over 400 people to Val d’Or for a three-day conference June 4-6. It was touted as a way to encourage strategic alliances, business partnerships and to build links with the Cree enterprises and businesses.
The first priority contracts being awarded by Hydro-Quebec to the Crees had Cree and non-Cree businesses lining up for a piece of the action. By the end of the first day you could see little groups forming and others still in networking mode but you could tell everyone was interested.
Some of the workshop rooms were filled to overflowing and some disappointed would-be participants quietly complainied. But no one wanted to disturb the potential brought out by the La Paix Des Braves agreement signed Feb. 7 by the Cree and Quebec.
I have never seen so many smiling faces in one room. There was a quiet determination that those of northern and mid-Quebec would benefit this time around. Billy Diamond lamented the loss of revenue by Crees and northern businessmen during the La Grande project. It was a feeling shared by many.There were workshops on construction, financing and partnership structures, the Cree structural organization and Cree entities, ground and aerial transportation, human resources development and training, and two on natural resources (forestry, mines and the environment).
To make sure no one was too overworked, a part of the second day was set aside for a round of golf. I didn’t see if it was raining but I did spot a few people hurrying off to the course.
The Val d’Or Friendship Centre organized a spectatular banquet with a show featuring the 11 First Nations of Quebec.
Opening Speech by Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses Good morning and welcome to this conference. I want to welcome my co-chair, the honourable Mr. Fernand Trahan, Mayor of Val d-Or, and Mr. Jean St. Gelais, General Secretary of the Executive Council of the government of Quebec. Greetings and welcome to everyone from the business community, from government and from industry. I also extend my greetings to the Chiefs and representatives from the nine Cree communities as well as the other aboriginal communities, and the executives from the Cree entities and Cree enterprises. Finally, my special acknowledgement to Mr. Abel Bosum, the Grand Council’s senior negotiator with the Government of Quebec.
This conference is a “first.” We have never done this before. In a way it is strange that this is so. We have been here In this region and in this community for well over 25 years. We have been living in this territory for thousands of years. The Cree presence in the region has had a major economic and social impact since we first set up offices here in the 1970s. Yet we have never formally recognized or examined our impact or engaged in any kind of planning with the business community to promote our common interests. I think everyone will agree that it is certainly time that we did so.
I have referred to our “common interests.” Until recently, there were those who doubted that we have common interests. We were two communities living in proximity, but somewhat estranged. Of course, we have always had friends here, and I think we have always been taken seriously, but the potential of our economic impact was not really understood, outside of the realization that lots of Crees went shopping before Christmas, and that there were a number of communities to the north that often depended upon services that came from this region.
The idea that there could be a partnership with the Crees, or that our economic interests were really linked in some fundamental way was far from obvious. There were disconcerting instances of racial discrimination and prejudice, and a general failure to recognize that the Crees might possess any kind of real expertise that could have application in the region.
This has now changed. How can we account for what has taken place? My own personal view is that reality and pragmatism has overwhelmed all of the suppositions about Indians. You have seen, first hand, the Crees in action for about 28 years. You have come to appreciate our power and political unity, our sense of nationhood, and our deep dedication and respect for this land.
In 1975 we signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement with Canada, Quebec, and Hydro-Quebec. The Agreement was a blueprint for the future, and a solemn promise from the governments and their Crown enterprises to invest in the community and economic development of Northern Quebec. That was the plan. That was also the commitment. Anyone who has read Mr. John Caccia’s introduction to the official Quebec edition of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement knows how very true this proposition is.
The great problem is that when it came to economic and community development, the governments lost interest. As a consequence, instead of directing the energy of the Cree Nation into the real work to be done—into the development of our communities and the economic stimulus for northern Quebec, we entered into a period of struggle to force the governments to live up to their word.
What a waste; but we had to do it. And it wasn’t all done through fighting. We built our communities anyway. We did economic development anyway. And here is where the people in this region have helped, because we wanted people to understand that it was not just the Crees who were being left out of the picture. Yes, we contributed to the economic vitality of this region. But how much more we would have been able to do if those commitments had been respected from the start.
You understand that we have a common interest and that the governments and the regions and the people all benefit from the investments that are made here for community and economic development. I am not talking about pouring money in and hoping that development happens. I am talking about building viable communities with sound infrastructures—permanent development which produces permanent jobs and strong communities.
In my view that is what has changed now. We have a premier in Quebec who is not full of old, outdated suppositions. He takes a pragmatic view. He knows that the future of our peoples is joined. And this is not a political strategy—it is a strategy for a viable future. It remains true, no matter what your political affiliation may be.
Ladies and Gentlemen. Let’s see what we can do together. That is my theme for this conference: Let’s see what we can do together. Welcome to this conference. Thank you.
Interview with Val d’Or Mayor Fernand Trahan The Mayor of Val d’Or is the kind of outspoken politician media adores. I was twice told this about the father of four. He likes to say what is on his mind and makes no bones about it. Along with the Grand Chief he was one of the co-chairmen of the conference. His son manages the L’Escale Hotel, a family business, as Trahan says he now takes care of Val d’Or and the north.
The Nation: What do you think of the symposuium?
Mayor Fernand Trahan: This symposium is something that Ted (Moses) and myself wanted to do before. But it was too hard to do before. Human relations always begin with common interests. Some Crees who have an interest to join with us. Us, we have some people have an interest in the past.
But with the signatures on the Paix des braves, it is a real peace. So the people from the south (ie. Val d’Or region) have another view of the Crees than just the lawyers suing everyone and everything. This wasn’t good for relations. This was a climate that wasn’t good for the province. So people like me, when I was working up north trying to do something in infrastructure, health, education or something like that I had to work in the background. It would be like “those Crees” and this and that saying “they’re troublemakers.” The government was in the back of that. You remember the ambassadorship of Ted in the United Nations saying that the Crees were discriminated against.
So it was hard to catch the hearts of the Quebec people. Now with the Paix des Braves everything has changed. Now the Crees are a real government, a nation accepted by the government of Quebec.
It’s not accepted by the federal government. You know the Crees are now going to have problems with the federal government because the Paix Des Braves is so high that it’s an example around the world of what can be achieved. The federal government now says, “Well, we have other Native communities around the country. If I agree to this agreement I will have to agree to it all over Canada.” It’s their problem.
But Quebec did something wonderful. I think this agreement will be one of the highest points in Bernard Landry’s life. We always remember the prime ministers who do something special for their people, all the people. Jean Lasage did the [Quiet Revolution]. Robert Bourassa started James Bay. We remember that. Bernard Landry did the peace for the north and we’ll remember that for all time.
The situation now is different so it is easy to do what we are doing now [the symposium].
It was a dream for Ted and some Cree chiefs for a long time to do this but people from both sides were not ready to do that before. Now it’s a new start.
There’s the Cree consortium and I guess there’s one for northern Quebecers.
Myself I don’t want so much another consortium but rather to give a recipe to the people, the know how or a package that says if you want to be a partner with each other then this is how to do it. It has to be done with respect to the political decisions of the Cree Nation. If the Crees want to keep trees up then that’s it and that’s all. If they want to cut it then that’s it and that’s all. It’s up to us to offer something and see what the decision is.
One example is the fiscal treatment that is different for the Crees and us in income tax and this or that. You may ask how can we make a partnership? We have to give the recipe or the way to join forces. This is why this symposium is important. Most important is the followup. We need a secretariat where the Crees can arrive and say we need this and where can we find someone who is interested? Us, we’ll have to find that person.
We don’t want a situation where some businessmen arrive in Chisasibi and say do you need some painters? We need a secretary who will help us to continue with a common vision because this symposium will be over but the work will continue.
We need something to allow us to continue talking to each other. This was where we made our mistakes in the past.
So you see this as a new relationship with the Crees?
Yes, it’s a new and real relationship. In Val d’Or, we haven’t arrived yesterday. Some region from the seventh of February (Signing of the Agreement) know the Crees. “Oh, there’s something there. I’m going to join partners with them.” Us, in Val d’Or, we’ve been here over 30 years. In the past when there was no roads and just aircraft. When Crees first came here it was the late Chief Josie Sam from Chisasibi. It was because the Indian Affairs was in Val d’Or. So it started there and then there was students coming here like the chief of Eastmain Edward Gilpin. In the past my father owned the Continental Hotel and in the back was the Indian Affairs office. We made business with Indian Affairs and all the Crees who were coming down. So when students came down for school they stayed at the Continental Hotel. It was us who took care of those students including meals. So it started with education and business like skidoos.
After when James Bay started Val d’Or became more important. There was no infrastructure in the communities, a lot of the Cree institutions were here, the Grand Council/CRA, the Cree School Board and whatnot had all there head offices here. Air Creebec started here and that was how our relationship was going. Later, the infrastructure changed and the head offices of the Crees moved to the communities.
But our relationship continued through tournaments and meetings. We have people here in Val d’Or who make business or work for the Crees. So we feel we have a strong connection with the Crees.
In Val d’Or and in Quebec we are not perfect. But I think we in Val d’Or have people who are more ready to accept the difference between our peoples. Because in one hundred years Crees will still be Crees and we will always be white people from the south. Crees are a minority and it is hard to be a minority. Each place in the world has different culture and racism exists in each culture. But we are getting better. In Val d’Or we have over 500 Crees who live here permanently.
There are students and people who work here. So the relationship if we take of it will be better year by year.
I think these things show that Val d’Or is poised to be the partner of preference of choice for the Crees.
Excerts from a speech by Billy Diamond In 1975, The Cree Nation of Quebec signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement which was supposed to solve all our problems, it allowed the Cree Communities to develop in their own image, provided for a strong booming Cree economy and allowed for the peaceful and responsible development of the North, respectful of the Cree traditions, interests and rights. Further it allowed for the people of Quebec and my people to come to understand one another….
The expectations of all the signatories to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement were high and we had to face the reality that they have not been met. Therefore the JBNQA always set the agenda. It established the level at which Cree Rights, benefits, and interests would be regarded.
That is why the New Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between the Government of Quebec and the Crees of Quebec was necessary. This New Relationship Agreement is a continuation of nation building at the table of negotiations and in nation building there is an empowerment of a people. It must be accomplished in nation-to-nation negotiations….
I have renewed expectations as result of the New Agreement with Quebec and in particular the Nadoshtin and Boumhounan Agreements that I had negotiated with Hydro Quebec.
First, nation to nation… These three words demonstrate that the Quebec government recognizes that the Cree will not go away or be assimilated and disappear into the cities of Quebec. You cannot work with a people or come to understand them until you recognize what form they take, otherwise instead of talking to them all you are doing is talking at them…
With the two hydro projects that are contemplated in the Nadoshtin and Boumhounan Agreements, the construction of the EM-1 Reservoir and the examination of how to realize the EM-1 A/Rupert River Diversion Project, we have a test of our respective commitment to this new relationship. Only if we able to proceed with these projects while respecting the Cree Way of Life, Cree Rights and Cree interests we will pass the test.
In light of the history between our peoples we must be realistic about the work that lays before us if we are to realize the expectations of the Cree or Quebec.
The ambitious degree of cooperation that will be required for the two hydro-electric projects is enormous. There is so much work to be done that we will run out of Crees in Quebec and we will have to import Crees from Ontario and Manitoba and Saskatchewan! This is not a hand out. This is not a welfare line. This is not a revenue-sharing scheme. This is not a profit-sharing scheme.
It is the Cree receiving the value of natural resources on their land. The way this was achieved and the manner with which work is proceding is a demonstration of self-government. IMPLEMENTATION: HQ Service Agreements with the impacted Cree communities. Crees will have input into HQ studies for the feasibility phase of the project. Have the opportunity to affect terms of reference. The on-the-ground work is carried under the supervision of the trappers and tallymen.
Crees will be paid for their time. Trappers are receiving amounts equivalent to that of a consultant.
THE FORMULA: Severely misunderstood by everyone, $3.5 billion is an unrealistic minimum – to reach that would require there to be no inflation for the next 50 years. It is based on the increase in value (not quantity) of natural resources extracted from our territory in mining, forestry, hydro-electricity: 1. The formula does not require the Cree to consent to increased development for the annual contribution to be raised. Even if hydro-electric production is reduced or remains the same, the annual contribution can still go up with an increase in electricity prices. The U.S. price is taken into account.
2. The factors taken into consideration is the market value of minerals, electricity, and wood.
3. Cree can profit twice from natural resource development they undertake. Once as entrepreneurs making money through commercial transactions and a second time through an increase In the value of the natural resource production which they have contributed to.
What exactly we expect to do: • The construction of the EM-1 reservoir with $300 million in related contracts reserved for the Crees. This is not welfare. We must deliver competitive prices and work to Hydro-Quebec.
• The examination of the EM-1 A/Rupert River Project, together. That means the coordination of expertise between Cree trappers and Hydro-Quebec experts.
• The possible construction of the Rupert River Diversion project with $290 million in contracts undertaken by the Cree.
• The designing and carrying out of hundreds of millions of dollars in remedial works, jointly, such as weirs, goose ponds, fish-spawning sites and so on..
• Jointly monitoring and protecting 800 square kilometres during construction periods so that the wildlife is disturbed as little as possible by the influx of workers.
Numbers on 10 Year Estimated Value of what was signed: Funds for participating in management in forestry: $6.9 million.
Funds set aside to help Cree enter mining exploration industry: $3 million.
Funds for section 28 (General Funding): $685 million.
Funds for regional Cree Police Force: $22.5 million.
Funds for Cree Conservation Officers: $15 million.
Funds for specific community projects (MOU): $80 million.
Funds for remedial works of past projects: $34 million.
Funds for employment in hydro-electric industry: $34 million.
Funds for development of Cree Fisheries and health related issues: $26 million.
Boumhounan and Nadoshtin: $74 million.
Estimated amount of contracts: $850 million.
Cree can still bid on $1 billion worth of contracts.
Small projects on table: one worth $500 million.
Commissioning contracts: $45 million.
This is not just a money agreement. We have secured many environmental and social guarantees: • Cree participation in environmental studies and design of project.
• Section 22 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.
• Conservation measures for project area. Non-native workers will be subject to Cree wildlife regulations and monitored by Cree Conservation Officers.
• Lakes and rivers protected under Boumhounan.
• No more NBR! Which is economically viable now (we have the numbers).
• Protection of wildlife habitats.
• Protection of the Rupert River (weirs – minimum of 12 at the expense of HQ designated in concert with the Cree and constructed by the Cree)….
These challenges, like all challenges, create opportunities. What we have here is an opportunity for Quebec to learn from the Cree. So long as our rights and interests are protected and we are allowed to benefit from our natural resources we are willing to share our expertise.
In these recent negotiations we have demonstrated that our participation and expertise is a necessity when contemplating the exploitation of natural resources. The original project design of the Rupert River Diversion by Hydro-Quebec called the Cramoisy variant had the diverted river passing over strategically important land to the community of Nemaska. Through consultations with Cree trappers who spend their lives on the land being considered, Hydro-Quebec was shown how to redesign the project and reduced the amount of land to be flooded by 50 square km….
The expectations that I have of these agreements that we have signed between our people is high. Hopefully when everyone will recognize the potential benefits to our respective nations the agreements will become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Thank you and meegwetchl! There, I have spoken!! The Nation : So how did you feel? I know the Friendship Center was asked to play a small role and that grew larger?
Edith Clouthier: I think it’s one of the roles of the friendship centre here in Val d’Or. We’ve been established for over 30 years and the credibility of the centre has grown over time. We were actually very happy to be asked to participate because this is a Native organization and they wanted to work on partnerships. They wanted to create this event where you begin in your own backyard. You start with your own organizations and so it was a natural thing to demonstrate that that could start right here in town. Then we could facilitate those types of events and partnerships.
How much work was it organizing the banquet and bringing in all the artists, dancers and singers?
It requires a lot of time and efforts but we have a lot of people we can count on in the centre. Our philosophy is that when we create an event everyone chips in because it’s how we work. Fortunately, we have a lot of staff and people put their hearts into it because people are proud of the friendship centre and the results of any project or event we organize. It’s a collective success for us.
Do you see yourself doing a lot more of this in the future?
Well, don’t ask me that question the day after [laughter]. Actually, we are used to organizing like this. We have a way of working that makes it easier over time. It’s a lot of work but being well organized and being used to putting on large events is nothing new to us.
You are doing so much with this friendship centre. I’ve noticed you are doubling your space, adding to the daycare and all that That must add considerably to the workload?
It adds to the workload but with those programs we are able to hire new people and one of our philosophies is to hire Native people. There are a lot of talented Native people out there and when we develop new services or programs we try to make sure that we have enough human resources to be able to give a quality of service. You can develop services and programs all you want but if the quality isn’t there then the people can’t benefit to its maximum. For us it’s very important that we evaluate the impacts of the results and our capacity to provide quality and to look at the needs of the people.