Over the last few months, the Grand Council of the Crees/ Cree Regional Authority have created and finally published their own guidelines to follow when it comes to the Crees and mining developers.
“Our government was quite worried about what was going on in the Cree world in terms of negotiations for certain projects. There needed to be rules and laws established so that everyone was singing the same song so that we don’t end up all over the place,” said CREECO President Jack Blacksmith.
The idea was not to create more red tape when it came to individual communities but to protect the Crees, their rights and the land. Blacksmith explained that as the GCC is the government of the Cree people, their desire is to ensure that none of the Cree get “short changed,” when it comes to any variety of development on Cree territory. At the same time, they are also not looking to bring up any issues that are unnecessary.
According to the recently released documents, the new mining policy is based on the following three fundamental pillars which serve as guides when it comes to mineral exploration and mining activity within Cree territory:
1. Promotion and Support of Mining Activities – The Crees support and promote the development of mining as part of their approach to natural-resource management and as a tool for social and economic development.
2. Mining and Sustainable Practices – The Crees believe that mining and sustainable development should be made compatible, and appropriate existing governance tools such as social and economic agreements, and environmental assessment and remediation processes should accompany all forms and all phases of mining activities.
3. Transparency and Collaboration – The Crees believe that mineral exploration and mining activities in the territory should be a transparent and collaborative process.
“This policy helps the Crees in their discussions with the government so that nobody feels run over in terms of mining development. What we have done with the mining policy is we’ve described who we are, what our beliefs are and what needs to be addressed when there’s mining development happening in our territory,” said Blacksmith.
“We all have to look after who we are in terms of being Cree people. The policy states very bluntly that we are not opposed to development. It also states that companies and the government need to mind their own business when they are on Cree territory.”
At the same time, Blacksmith said these policies are not about jumping in and shutting an operation down, these policies are being put into place to ensure that there is mutual trust and understanding between the Crees, the government and industry.
In the seven-page document numerous issues are highlighted to ensure that the three aforementioned fundamental pillars are respected. Some of these highlights include the protection of Cree mineral rights and the use of the Cree’s own expertise on land and mineral-resources management under the first pillar.
Under the Sustainable Development Policy, there are a number of points that detail the Cree’s ultimate commitment to the land and their traditional practices. They also list a series of principles derived from the Eeyou Estchee Declaration issued in 1995.
It then goes on to explain the GCC’s desire improve the economic, social, environmental, cultural and sustainable development of all Crees and Cree local governments in the context of mining activities on the territory and mentions the agreements in place to ensure sustainability.
Under the third pillar, the policy explains the GCC’s policy on transparency, collaboration in terms of developing flexible approaches that respect the roles of the communities in terms of decision-making and protecting Cree rights.
It also explains how support for the mining companies will be available to them through the Cree Mineral and Exploration Board and through the CRA.
For more information on the policy or to obtain a copy of it, contact the GCC/CRA offices.