I’ve always liked the old saying that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time skinning a cat (the pelt isn’t worth much), but I do try to implement the lesson in looking for more than one solution to a particular problem.
It was this attitude that, during an enormous struggle, the Crees employed in relegating the Great Whale hydro-electric project to the dust-gathering shelf.
Crees would face, and overcome, other challenges that have not diminished in scale.
One of the challenges facing Crees these days is the Municipality of James Bay (MJB). In what was a little-noticed (at that time) move, a law was passed in Quebec’s National Assembly that awarded control over Category III lands in Eeyou Istchee to the Municipality of James Bay.
This intrusion of foreign power is being felt in many areas. Some Crees have told of finding their camps posted with orders to rebuild or renovated to meet MJB building codes. Others have told of favorite places such as shorelines suddenly having cabins appear. Though some are illegal squatters there are some who some are legally there as they have been granted a permit by the MJB.
The municipality also now has a say in mining and other industry on Category III lands.
This challenge for the Cree leadership is of vital importance. They cannot recognize the rights awarded to the MJB as legitimate. Indeed, nor should any Cree, as that foot in the door seems to be getting bigger every time we look at it.
However, as private citizens, Cree and non-Cree alike, we are less bound than they are.
So begin by remembering there is another old saying: with great powers come great responsibilities.
During a meeting at Ouje-Bougoumou I learnt that garbage dumps are one responsibility of the MBJ. This includes the clean-up of illegal dumps. They must foot the cost of cleaning up such dumps if they cannot find the person or company that dumped the garbage.
I am sure many of the MBJ politicos had dollar signs in their eyes when the Quebec government gave them rights over Category III lands. Let’s show them the dollars signs are not always just revenue. In other words, let’s bury them under paperwork and costs of clean-up.
It would have the added bonus of being able to include all the illegal squatter sites that pollute our territory. Maybe we’ll finally get some action on that issue.
To make a complaint I recommend a photo and directions to the location of the dump. Call attention to the fact they are responsible for cleaning it up. Get hold of Radisson, Chibougoumau, Matagami and Amos municipalities, just to name a few of the members of the MJB. Complain and then send a copy of the complaint and photo of the site to firstname.lastname@example.org. When we get enough of them we’ll put them up on a website. The illegal garbage sites can be anywhere, even if the area is only accessible by plane, helicopter, hiking or boat. They can be any size.
You can also inform your local band council by sending copies to the land use or environment officer in your band council.
There are occasions when being an “ordinary concerned citizen” is the right thing to do.
The ultimate issue of whether or not the MJB have any rights over Eeyou Istchee must be left to the politicians but there is more than one way to skin a cat.