For this issue The Nation asked people for their thoughts on the $1.5 million the Crees will receive as their share of revenue growth from Hydro Quebec’s exploitation of hydroelectricity in Cree territory.
Bertie Wapachee, Nemaska: “If you look at the average, about $2 billion a year on 1,000 megawatts of power, and how they break it down, 15,000 megawatts come out of our territory. Just on electricity. If you want to average it out, normally 1,000 megawatts will give you around $2 billion in revenues every year. If you’re looking at 15,000 megawatts, where’s all the money going? A piece of it, $70 million, is going to the Crees. If we were smart we could have asked for $200 million. Just to be nice, $70 million wasn’t enough when it was signed. We’re always going to be in a position to fight over those dollars every year. It’s never going to let a community catch up to development whether it’s in housing or whatever their needs are in their communities. We have to dam every river, blow up every mountain and cut every tree we can to boost up the $70 million. That’s what we would have to do, that’s our reality. I don’t know how much land we’ll have if we dam up any more rivers. So who’s going to make money in the end? Not us.
John Brown, Eastmain: I guess the intention of the Agreement was to find social and economic development within the communities. As for Eastmain as regards to the money, the band here has broken it down with the percentages that were in the Agreement. There’s a percentage going to the Youth, a percentage going to the Elders, a percentage going to community development, and a percentage going to economic development. For me, whether I feel that the amount is sufficient, I never feel the amount is sufficient. I feel that how we use the money is more important than how much it is. I think we really need to look at policy when it comes to business development and education more than anything else right now. What’s lacking is the incentive for people to want to get into business right now. I find a lot of people are having a hard time making the transition to getting into business because of the large demand for service-oriented things that are either done through the band, the Cree Health Board or the Cree School Board. As for the money itself, I can’t really make an assessment whether or not it’s sufficient, good or bad, I’ve never gotten the figures. I don’t know how they calculate it, what figures they used, how they got those figures, and who calculated them. I can’t make an assessment without knowing all that stuff.
Jimmy A. Fireman, Chisasibi: I have a question about the annual disbursement of funds since the Paix des braves was deemed an economic development agreement. Are we going to see investments in local and regional economic development projects for job creation and long term returns on these investments? And the creation of the Cree Development Corporation, how is this structured? Who sits on this board? Who sets policy on the formula for the disbursement of funds? I believe persons involved in economic development should be allowed to voice their concerns about how local and regional authorities utilize their portions. If we continue to use these funds for social community development and very little for economic development, and very little for long-term investments, are we going to be in trouble in the not-too-distant future?
Bill Namagoose, Waskaganish: We set the $70 million as a base. Then it’s adjusted by the index, which is the sale of Hydro minerals and forestry products. That’s a 1.6 per cent increase. All aboriginal people across Canada and probably even the U.S. would want to have access to the share that comes from their territory. This is the first time in all of Canada or North America. The Crees are getting a portion of the funding from the revenue generated from their traditional territory. There’s no other agreement like this in the world. Our deal increased by $ 1.6 million this year. That index provided $1.6 million and it will increase for the next 45 years. Every year we look back at what happened in the past five years, then we take an average of how much sales were made in electricity, mining and forestry, then we take an average of the five years. If you want to do the math, it’s very difficult, but if you do it by the principle, we just take the electricity sales and we take a portion for the Crees. Since we signed the Agreement, $157 million has gone to the Cree communities. People who are opposed to the agreement will always try to minimize the economic benefit of the index, but the index is too full as the revenue-sharing thing and it has access to revenues from Aboriginal territory, which no other group has. Groups have what you call impact agreement benefits but it’s not linked to the diamond mines or whatever it gets out of the territory. They give them x-amount of millions and the company is free to take whatever they want out of it in the territory.