“It was more of a celebration than anything.”
That’s the way Bill Namagoose summed up this year’s Annual General Assembly of the Grand Council/CRA in Eastmain.
In all, the three-day event was attended by 200 community delegates and other Crees, including some who stayed behind from the Youth and Elders Conference, also held in Eastmain. Contrary to initial reports, Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin didn’t end up attending, but those who did say the event was a harmonious affair.
“The atmosphere was quite pleasant,” reported Bill. “There’s wasn’t any big confrontation over corporate and business affairs. It was more of a Cree personal celebration thing.”
One of the highlights was the recognition of past leaders by the assembly. Robert Kanatewat and Chief Ted Moses were among those recognized (a full list will appear in our next issue).
The main issue on everyone’s lips was the threat of Quebec sovereignty. The assembly tackled this problem by giving the Grand Council and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come the mandate to “undertake and continue all necessary and appropriate measures, in Canada and internationally, to safeguard and assert Cree status and rights in light of possible alterations of Quebec’s status vis-a-vis Canada.”
According to a draft copy of the resolution, this mandate includes “effective Cree strategies and initiatives especially in relation to any upcoming referendum on Quebec secession, including the holding of a Cree Nation referendum and the calling to order in special session of the Cree legislature.”
The resolution, proposed by Ted Moses and seconded by Chief Matthew Mukash, also affirms the Cree Nation’s right to self-determination and the right to “freely determine our political status and that of our traditional territory.”
The resolution also says that if Quebec tries to secede from Canada, this will constitute a “fundamental alteration and repudiation” of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Another major issue which the assembly dealt with is policing. Crees may soon have their very own police force, according to a resolution passed on this issue. The resolution said that if Quebec and Canada still hadn’t provided adequate funds to Cree Peacekeepers by Sept. 1, Crees would withdrawal of their own police funding and would take steps to create their own police force.
“It will send a strong message to the Quebec government that it has failed to work with the Crees,” Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith explained to The Nation.
When we went to print, the final versions of the resolutions weren’t available. They’ll appear in our next issue.