This editorial appeared in Le Soleil, a Quebec City daily paper on Oct. 14.

Some Indian Chiefs never miss an opportunity to make incendiary statements, to demonstrate their contempt for Canadian and Quebec political leaders by indulging in low demagogy, and to enlarge the chasm in public opinion between the Aboriginals and the francophone Quebecois majority.

The Cree Matthew Coon Come and the Mohawk Billy Two-Rivers are among them. Coon Come has once again played the international card on Sept. 19 in Washington by requesting the protection of the United States against the violence which a future government of a sovereign Quebec might visit on his people. And he continues to add more.

The Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees is dishonest towards the Quebec government and he betrays history. The Liberals of Robert Bourassa established what was, for the time, a model agreement in 1975 with the Crees, through the James Bay Agreement. The Parti Quebecois thereafter multiplied its initiatives to establish relations which were unique in Canada with the Aboriginal peoples on the basis of a recognition of their right to self-determination and, more recently, the agreement on Phase 1 of the SM-3 project with the Montagnais marks another step forward in the area of territorial rights.

Quebec in no way deserves to be the victim of verbal overkill of the type which we have been served this week, which excites passions and unjustly tarnishes its image. Coon Come is acting irresponsibly.

The sovereignist project of the Parizeau government raises legal issues of capital importance for the Aboriginals who claim ownership of their lands. The Parti Quebecois on the contrary claims that a YES vote in the referendum will make Quebec a sovereign country and that the right of the Aboriginals cannot negatively impact the integrity of Quebec’s territory. It promises to associate the aboriginal Nations in the drafting of the constitutional provisions which will concern them.

In what way does the program of the Parizeau government fundamentally modify the context of aboriginal land claims and how can it constitute for them such a threat that some of their Chiefs are already promising to hold their own referendum? Behind all the talk about ancestral rights and land claims are always hidden very onerous demands for monetary compensation. It has become strictly a matter of big bucks. In this context, wholesale denunciations and constant references to genocide must be interpreted as gross blackmail on the backs of our governments.

Let the Parizeau government concentrate its efforts, to begin with, on agreements with the Attikamek-Montagnais. They represent close to a third of the Aboriginal population in Quebec and are showing themselves far more serious. The Crees and the Mohawks will no doubt continue uttering war-whoops. Billy Two-Rivers will not have the political courage to clean up his own backyard and will surely be unmasked in the end. Since the summer of 1990, sympathy for the Mohawks is nonexistent.

As for the well-groomed Coon Come, as any professional negotiator, he will sit down with his calculator when he senses the end of the bidding is near. The weakness of the aboriginal Nations is that they are in reality more different and more divided than the Quebecois and will never constitute a very solid common front.