When I first looked at the studies of mining contamination of the waters around Ouje-Bougoumou I was more than a little angry. Many of you, once you read the story, will feel equally shocked and outraged over what has been withheld from the Ouje-Bougoumou people. This information is the smoking gun: the Quebec government’s own data show that the lake and river sediments are poisoned.
The amount of contamination allowable under Canadian federal law was illegally exceeded many times over and nothing has ever been done about it even to this day. Given that Quebec has suppressed the data from this study for three years, it’s obvious the government has no intention to enforce the law.
This begs the question of whether or not the concepts of environmental protection, guidelines and law are real within Canada, and within the province of Quebec.
The Quebec government has known that the guidelines have been exceeded and are still allowing working mines to continue their old practices of dumping mine tailings and waste into the lakes. Is this lack of enforceability planned? Is the fact that the primary victims of this poisoning are Cree having any impact on these decisions?
One has to wonder what exactly that new relationship with Quebec really means at this time. This is not a slam on the Paix des braves agreement. It is something about one part of the AIP portion that has always stuck with me.
• The provisions of this agreement shall not affect the rights and recourses of the Crees and shall in no way affect the recourses of Cree individuals resulting from contaminants (such as mercury or other metals and substances) arising from the development of the James Bay territory.
First of all, the Grand Council, the CRA, or any chief and council cannot legally give up an individual’s right to recourse under the law. This is entrenched in Canadian law. So why include it?
Was it because the Quebec government was aware of a potential legal problem even before they negotiated the AIP and the Paix des braves? They certainly were aware of the contamination as their own records show.
The section is highly specific in mentioning contaminants (“such as mercury or other metals and substances”) and development.
So basically the section says that individuals Crees can sue over being contaminated. Does this mean the Grand Council or band councils cannot do so or must they go through some other process?
In any case why include it?
There must have been a specific reason why it was done. Who wanted it in? Was it the Quebec government or one of its agencies? If so, given the reasons why it was redundant, why didn’t our negotiators pick up on it as something strange? At that point I would have been questioning why it was included.
Was it the Cree negotiators, themselves, who requested it be put in? If so, why? Did they have an inkling of what the future might hold? Were the concerns of the late Joseph Shecapio-Blacksmith and the residents of Ouje-Bougoumou over the mining toxins getting through to the negotiators?
We’ll probably never know unless someone recorded those negotiations and are willing to make available a copy to the Nation. Remember we respect confidentiality when requested.