The race for the position as Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees is heating up once again and in this issue we will be talking to Ted Moses, who is hoping to be re-elected and lead the people for the next four years.
It is our aim for you, the reader, to come to a clear understanding of some of the main issues facing Eenouch today and how these candidates intend to deal with them. The election is set for August 31.
One of the first issues the Nation raised with the incumbent Grand Chief, Ted Moses, was the Grand Council’s move towards self-government and a Cree constitution. “We have a framework agreement with the government of Canada which basically includes the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement,” Moses explained. “The Crees would assume certain responsibilities and the federal government would assume even more responsibilities to fulfill the obligations Canada has towards the Crees under the JBNQA.” This is seen as a very positive step forward within the nation.
“We’d also develop a Cree nation government on the basis of an Eenou-Eeyou constitution which would be recognized by Canada and would reflect a consensus on how our nation should operate and the value that it should express.”
In the meantime, Moses and the Grand Council have talked to the federal government about increased funding for community and economic development as well as the Eeyou Eenou regional police.
The topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind is wind power, something that Moses supports.
“I’m a promoter of economic development at the local level as well as economic development by Crees, which includes wind power. I support the projects presented by Chisasibi and Mistissini and I would be prepared to establish a Cree nation approach with Hydro-Quebec in that regard so the Crees can participate on that development so we can secure benefits as well as create jobs for our people.”
The Nation asked Moses how he sees the Paix des Braves working, three and a half years later.
“The Paix des Braves is working very well. It’s developed a momentum which I would like to continue in my next mandate. That agreement has provided us with the resources to address many of the issues and challenges that face us. We’re also able to start dealing with issues that we thought in the past that if only we had the resources, we’d do them.
“We’re able to develop our economies now, support the traditional way of life of our people, as well as address social issues such as our overall health and things like suicide, obesity, diabetes, and family related issues. We have also been able to improve the educational system so that our people can get a good education and take advantage of the opportunities we provide.”
There have been a large number of suicides within the Cree Nation in the past few years and we asked Moses how he plans to change the current way it’s dealt with, because it has reached epidemic proportions.
“We’ve been looking at the statistics and the numbers and have been trying to get a better understanding. I’ve brought together the Cree leadership as well as the leadership of health and social services together jointly and we’re looking at the consequences and are trying to grasp a better understanding of the root of the problem. We’re not looking at a case-by-case basis, but more of it as an issue and how we can be a part of the solution and what we can do to improve the quality of life of our people and address issues that become the sources of the result.”
“It’s a long process. It’s a touchy and complicated issue. But as a leader one has to assume a role in addressing it. It’s something that does not come overnight. It involves working together with other people, including the community and health professionals.”
The Ouje-Bougoumou contamination issue has been a topic of concern across Eeyou Istchee. People are getting cancer, fish are turning up with grotesque sores on their bodies, and the Quebec government has turned a blind eye to it all.
“It’s one of the challenges that are before us. In collaboration with the elected authority in Ouje-Bougoumou, we have engaged internationally recognized experts to carry out an extensive public health study.”
Although Moses said that he has not seen the final results of the environmental study, he doesn’t believe that there is a crisis in OJ.
“The health study to date has indicated that the population of OJ doesn’t have high levels of contamination and they are not at any more risk than the population of Nemaska. So we don’t consider it as a health crisis. However we are awaiting the report on the risk levels associated with particular places.” Moses continued, “With the support of the Grand Council, the court proceedings against the mining companies to protect Eeyou Eenou rights and recourses relating to this issue have been initiated by Ouje-Bougoumou. I support that initiative.” On August 15, the Washaw Sibi Eeyou, who were recognized a couple of years ago as the tenth Cree community, walked to the former campground of Joulac in hopes of pressuring the government into giving them a land base by pitching tents on what used to be their traditional territory. The Nation asked Moses where he stands.
“I work very closely with the leadership of Washaw Sibi and I’m very sympathetic with their situation,” said Moses. Although he stopped short of committing new money to their cause, he said he would do what was in his power as leader to help them in any way he can.
“They have expressed to me that they intend to pursue a future whereby they can relocate and re-establish themselves within their traplines and their own community. We support them to the extent we can. We will call upon both governments to ensure they have proper facilities and services and protect their language and culture.”
The MoCreebec people of Moosonee were left out of the last Grand Council election because there was no ballot box in the community. “This year we made sure that they had a ballot box so they can exercise their right to vote,” said Moses. “We can’t have a ballot box or poll everywhere because sometimes it’s difficult to know how many Crees there are. This year they can vote by mail, too.”
Moses says he is the best candidate for the job because of “My experience in negotiations. There isn’t a year that’s gone by that I was not involved in any negotiations since 1974, which have lead to many agreements and arrangements. I’ve been Grand Chief for nine years and have advocated the rights of my people including Aboriginal and Indigenous rights here in Canada, and internationally.
“As well as my credibility with the governments of Quebec and Canada and Hydro-Quebec. Sometimes special arrangements and new initiatives are not necessarily on account of a written-up document, but who the individual is that’s leading the Cree Nation or Aboriginal group.”