Even before Quebec’s Plan Nord for northern development was fully unveiled this spring, Crees had already been looking at how to best take advantage of the unbelievable employment opportunities that will come with the development of so many major projects.

The biggest sector for the Crees will no doubt be mining, with four major projects happening throughout Eeyou Istchee.

In this vein, Crees from entities, like the Cree Construction and Development Company (CCDC), the Cree School Board, Cree Human Resources Development (CHRD), the Cree Regional Authority and other groups, congregated in Montreal for two days (September 7-8) to see how they can start planning for the future.

“There have been a lot of recent developments in Eeyou Istchee, particularly in mining and especially with the signing of the Wemindji Eleonore gold project agreement with Goldcorp. This has changed the face of mining development in Eeyou Istchee and everybody understands that we need to do something to get ready,” said event co-chair Alfred Loon, head of Economic and Sustainable Development for the CRA.

Loon was co-chairing the event with Henry Mianscum, Director of CHRD.

Rather than simply presenting what is happening to these entities, Loon said the event was more about discussing how the Crees can prepare themselves and by that token get feedback from the different entities on what this will mean to each of them individually.

“Who we wanted to engage here was anyone who had an interest in mining. We have people here from the Health Board as they have concerns. We have someone from the Cree Trappers’ Association because their members are going to be impacted. The School Board is also here and that’s because education is key to these projects,” said Loon.

Loon said the need for the meeting, titled “This is Our Moment… Mining in Eeyou Istchee”, came out of meetings that many of these entities had with several of the mining companies that will be starting projects in Eeyou Istchee in the coming years.

“We need to get information and we need to look at how we are going to plan all of this. Who is going to do what? In other words, I can say for lack of better words, we need to get our act together,” said Loon.

At the event speakers were invited from northern Saskatchewan where the Cree communities there have already experienced a similar development boom. Loon said what came out of those presentations was that while those communities may already be in the middle of their own boom, the Crees in Quebec are not that far behind them as they already have various entities in place to provide the necessary support.

According to Michael Petawabano, CHRD’s Coordinator of Territorial Programs, the employment potential resulting from the four major upcoming mining projects on the Cree territory will be incredible.

“We are looking at 1600 jobs for just the construction phase and then the production phase would need another 1500 people. This is a big undertaking and one of the big things that we were talking about is planning our strategy around that.

“This is talking about making sure that we can maximize the opportunities for employment and training and also the opportunity for development and that is the business part of it, those are the two points that we wanted to cover,” said Petawabano.

His message to any Crees who are interested in benefitting from this mining employment boom is to start getting informed now by visiting the local Cree employment offices in their communities. People can start now by putting in their information as there will be employment not just in mining but also in other related fields and so there will be many opportunities to go around.