The controversial Quebec-Cree Memorandum of Understanding was finally signed by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and Minister Guy Chevrette on March 27 in Montreal. All Chiefs except for Matthew Mukash of Whapmagoostui were also in attendance.

Like Kenny Blacksmith said, I am not against the community projects, but rather against the Quebec MOU process itself. Personally I do believe there is room for improvement in the Cree government and entities. Nothing on this mother earth is perfect after all.

However, I do believe that control of these important changes is the right of all Cree beneficiaries and not just a select few. I also believe that initially Quebec should not be a part of those changes. Would the PQ government be willing to have the federal government come in and review all of Quebec’s institutions? I don’t think so. Then why do they have that right to do so with the Crees? It seems to me this part of the MOU is just another return to patriarchal, racist colonialism.

Yes, any changes will be subject to “Cree consent.” But who are the Crees who will be asked to give their consent. At the press conference, I asked Chief Billy Diamond what Cree consent means. He said it means the signatories of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. In other words, only the Chiefs and Grand Council are needed to give “Cree consent.” Forget that over 90 per cent of the Cree people voted to sign the JBNQA. It seems that at one time, everyone mattered, but now only the few do.

In fact, if you look at it from a political power standpoint, the Cree negotiator has great power over any Chiefs, Council/Board member or community who may oppose him. Projects are negotiated on a yearly basis and who’s to say that the negotiator didn’t do a great job for you just because you didn’t get what your community needed.

But these things are just my opinion. The true decisions and choices ultimately belong to all Crees. If you want this situation to continue, then do nothing. If you do not, there are some things you can do. For example: a petition or resolution at this year’s Annual General Assembly in Chisasibi that says a minimum of 60 per cent of the Cree people are needed to vote on any changes to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Cree entities and institutions, or the Cree-Naskapi Act.

Another resolution could be that no Chief can be a negotiator. Not only does this position currently require that a Chief has to spend time away from the larger responsibilities to his or her people and community, but it gives them very little time to consult with their own people on issues that could affect them or the Cree Nation. Such a time away could have the potential result in something like a multi-million-dollar deficit for a community. Would such a thing affect judgement when at the negotiation table? A cash-starved negotiator might be willing to give up more than an independent negotiator. This is yet another potential conflict-of-interest that Chiefs have to take into account when accepting the job.

I am not saying that the present negotiator is doing any of this or has fallen prey to any of theabove concerns that I raised. It is just that the potential for problems in the future is there. Thepotential of someone, who would be with morals or scruples, in such a position of power withoutrestraints is one that would bode ill for the Cree Nation as a whole if this continues.