This editorial is going to be short. As short as the way Minister Guy Chevrette has treated the Crees. I hear that, after demanding a meeting with the chiefs to clear up forestry and axing the Cree/Quebec Memorandum of Understanding negotiations and funding, Chevrette canceled a scheduled meeting until after goose break.
I seem to remember that, in 1972, Bourassa had the same reaction to the Crees. He was too busy to see them. It’s now 1999; a different political party and Quebec’s response is the same. Chevrette is too busy to see the Crees except when he wants to.
I think the Crees should get busy too. Haven’t we been slighted enough?
Just look at the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and all the breaches and unfulfilled obligations and rights. A Grand Council of the Crees official once told me that, in terms of honouring the Agreement, Quebec’s report card would be about 40 points out of a hundred. That’s dismal, that’s disappointing and that’s down-right criminal.
You’d have thought a political party that cries about the way Ottawa treats them, and says they must separate because of all the injustices and ill-treatment “English” Canada has accorded them, would be more circumspect. But this is not so, and it is proved over and over again.
It is time for a change, a true change. We cannot continue to be played for fools while the Guy Chevrettes of the world play for time.
In the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Crees were guaranteed a role in regional development. It has never happened and, thus, we have our many court cases, including the now-infamous forestry case. We have never had the major role we were promised and that which was adopted into law by both Quebec and Canada.
We were promised jobs, including 150 of them by Hydro-Quebec in the 1986 La Grande Agreement. It never happened. If the dams in our territory had happened in Alabama and the proportion of blacks to whites hired was the same, there would have been a race war. But we, Crees, are expected to sit back and hope that someday they’ll make true on their offer. The jobs have never happened. How many summer jobs have you seen Cree youth getting in the hydro-electric projects, the forestry companies or the mining companies?
Is it any wonder Crees are labeled anti-development. Where have Crees seen any fairness?
Our rights are trampled on, we put up with racist hiring policies and attitudes, we see our land being destroyed, we see the animal populations disappearing, the past relationship with Quebec and Canada has been one of genocide (as defined under international law), and nothing seems to change except the names of the people doing these things.
As we are pushed off our land by the forestry, dams and non-Native cottage owners, is this not similar to the “ethnic cleansing” Canada is fighting so bravely in far away in Kosovo?
It has to change. If Quebec can separate, then why cannot the Crees? Every argument they make we can make in a stronger way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from Canada; perhaps we could apply to regain territorial status since Quebec cannot seem to handle a mutually beneficial relationship with the Crees. Or why not just go for the sovereignty thing for ourselves. I don’t know, this is up to the people. But I know one thing. It’s damn well time for a change.