This is a first for The Nation. It is the first time we have been able to reach the candidates for chief in a Cree community. In this case it was Mistissini. Normally the time between the nominations, acceptance and actual voting doesn’t allow for much time for the candidate’s positions to become well known. In this case it was a lucky break that we had the time.

But since this is the first time some of the candidates wrote a lot. We’ve had to editdown the answers to fit the space reserved. We have tried to retain the spirit in whichthe candidates wrote as best we could. 1b make things fair we asked all of them the samefive questions. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the space to print their answers to one of thequestions. The order of the candidates answering was done through a chance random selectionprocess.


Henry Mianscum: Sees the signing of the control of natural resources in the JBNQA as a problem but insists that Crees retain use of the forest. Mianscum says forestry operations were supposed to take into account trapping, hunting and fishing lifestyles of the Crees. He says, though, that this is not what is happening and trappers and hunters are becoming pawns in “the game of overexploitation by forestry operators and supported by the government.” Mianscum writes that “the lure of quick riches” will affect the Cree way of life.

He also says a new economic development pattern is developing that Mistissini residents will have to look at. Mianscum says there are Cree entrepreneurs, operations and tallymen, and their actions will have to be looked at before Crees oppose forestry operations. He continues to say that even though tallymen accept compensation for forestry damages, this does not mean they support it.

Mianscum says traditionally Crees burned selected areas in order to foster new growth in animal populations but the dearcutting doesn’t allow this to happen.

Mianscum says the non-selective cutting is one of the most vocal complaints in Mistissini and the upcoming court case is something he fully supports. He points to the tallymen as the people who should be consulted in determining actions to be taken with the forestry operators. This includes compensation and work. Mianscum, referring to the trappers and hunters, writes, “The Quebec Cree Nation is indebted to this group of Crees and should take heed of their voices on matters affecting their way of life.”

Kenny Loon: Points out the hunting, fishing and trapping provisions within the JBNQA and says that Quebec’s actions and strategies are designed to undermine Cree rights and their ability to defend their way of life. “We must assert pressure to effect policy changes to respect Cree rights and interests to the land,” writes Loon. Loon asserts that logging companies have taken full advantage of the Quebec’s governmental policies to ignore Cree concerns. He cites the JBNQA’s provisions that say future development must respect the Cree way of life. He says the Quebec government’s land regime is different in the south and the north. This double standard means the Crees are getting a raw deal and that Quebec has violated its own laws. He looks to compensation and revenue sharing as balancing the inequalities.

William Mianscum addresses all resource development:

First and foremost, we must assert our right to sovereignty over Eeyou Astchee and I recognize the Grand Council of the Crees (of Eeyou Astchee) being the body responsible to oversee the matter. The direction must come from the grassroots level, so consultation is very important.

No category of land contemplated under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement will ever be compatible with the right to hunt, fish and trap and the forestry company’s permission from Quebec to exploit. Not only do we harvest the land to continue our survival as a people of the land, we nurture and look after the land to ensure bountiful harvests for future generations. The forestry company destroys our cultivation and it destroys our means to survive, so how can it be compatible? I am for development if we are a participant to that development, but our participation must be meaningful. We must have a say on how the development of the resource takes place. We must be assured equal opportunity for jobs, business contracts and a share of the revenue generated. Our tallymen impacted by the resource developed must be principal participants in any proposal developed.

The input of the tallymen in resource development must be valued and respected. I want toshare with you the view of one tallyman I have spoken to amongst many on resourcedevelopment. He said, “I am for resource development if I have a say in how developmenttakes place and our rights and interests are looked after, but if any of my children standsup, and says Dad, want to continue to follow our ways on the land, then we will standtogether and fight resource development.” This is a principle I live by.

Peter Coon: Both the Quebec government and forestry industry totally disregard appropriate conservation principles. Coon says present practices don’t reflect the Cree territorial environment or take into account the traditional practices of the Crees. Coon says those Cree negotiations on co-management and revenue sharing would “ensure Cree participation, adequate consultative mechanisms and the sharing of profit.” He goes on to say that forestry must be done on a sustainable level and any negotiations must protect the future generations and the land itself. “These goals of environmental conservation, Cree participation and protection of Cree rights are complementary and achievable.”

Sam Etapp’s statement: The community of Mistissini, through its representative (yours truly), appeared before the Council Board/ Chiefs last December 1997 to propose the review and development of a legal challenge against the Quebec government and the forestry industry with regards to the present conduct of forestry activities in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Mistissini.

The scope of the legal court action has since developed as a Cree Nation challenge and is presently in its final draft stages. A notice was issued calling for a final review at a special meeting scheduled in Montreal.

There is an unwritten policy of the community to consult directly with Cree families thatare directly affected by any proposed resource development project. The general public isnotified of the affected families’ position and from that process a community overallposition is developed afterwards. I have always

respected that community consultation process and will continue to hold respect

for it.

At the present moment, there seems to be a general acceptance to intervene as full andmeaningful participants at all levels of the commercial forestry activities: from theplanning stages where cutting would be allowed to take place, based on Cree land useplanning, wildlife habitat identification and protection and other measures for Crees benefiting from social and economic spin-offs.

The environmental, social and economic impacts from past cutting operations need to be reviewed and assessed for their remedial and corrective measures. All memoranda signed between the Cree Nation and the Quebec government must be respected and implemented in good faith and spirit.

Hydroelectric Development

Henry Mianscum: That Cree consent is required when discussing hydroelectric projects and their development. Once again Cree hunters and trappers are important in this process, though to a limited extent the general population supported their measures.

Future generations are a factor in development discussions these days, as well as looking at different ways of obtaining livelihood from the land. Since land has been destroyed or impacted it has resulted in those new land use patterns. New deals should include Crees being able to learn new trades. We all need jobs.

Those people who oppose further development should be heard, but so too must those who look at other means of getting a livelihood out of the exploited areas.

Kenny Loon: Makes reference to fiduciary responsibilities and the Supreme Court Sparrow decision which says Native peoples have to be consulted on decisions happening on their ancestral lands. Loon says Sparrow also requires Native consent. Loon points out that there are also review procedures, guidelines and provisions within the JBNQA that have to be respected. Loon says there are provisions within Canadian and Quebec law that would protect the rights of the Crees and the usage of the land.

Peter Coon: “I thought that hydroelectric development in Eeyou Istchee was already addressed in 1975 when the Crees signed the JBNQA. We allowed certain developments in hydroelectric projects in our territory; these developments are defined in the JBNQA and new projects are not supposed to be possible. The idea of new projects or proposed expansions and new definitions of existing projects is a matter which lies at the heart of the JBNQA. The Crees have to be careful in addressing this issue and must tackle this issue collectively.”

Sam Etapp’s: “The consultation process must be an integral and respected component of any resource development projects proposed or contemplated in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation.

“Seeking Cree consent must be a requirement for the authorization of any proposed development projects and the review process as contemplated in the environment regime of Section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement must be respected.

“If, and only if, the communities express a desire to participate, then the Quebec government and its proponents must be prepared and held accountable to review other provisions related to preferential Cree employment, economic development assistance, training and so forth.

“The Cree communities must be adequately informed if proponents expect a response orposition. There must be an informed decision. The community must be equipped with a strongleadership to respect, support and carry the decision of its community members.”

Paving the Mistissini-Chibougamau Road

Henry Mianscum: Referred to a 1988 promise made by Quebec’s Minster of Transport to pave theroad in four years to Mistissini. Says that Crees have paid for this promised road in taxesand higher prices for vehicles because you must have one adaptable to the road. He saidwindshields must be replaced at least twice a year, insurance rates and deductibles arehigher, vehicles depreciate by $5,000 before you even drive them off the car dealers’ lot,repairs are triple Quebec’s average and Cree health is affected by the unpaved roads(stress, skin, eye, ear, heart,lung and other problems).

Mianscum says Mistissini Crees are taxpayers who receive less from Quebec than average and that use of the road has contributed significantly to the coffers of the Quebec government. Mianscum says Mistissini has to continue to lobby as well as set up a strategic task force to continue the struggle.

Kenny Loon: Says the road between Chibougamau and Mistissini is hazardous and unsafe. Loon makes reference to the Minister of Transport’s promise to Mistissini to pave the road. A task force was set up but little came out of it. Loon would set up a new task force to deal with the issue. He sees mandating them to do a comprehensive study, including whether or not the Quebec government is legally obligated to provide a safe road or highway when health clinics and ambulances are concerned. “In these types of situations people’s lives are at risk when being transported on an unsafe highway,” Loon wrote.

Loon says paved roads in Mistissini could be looked at in two ways; it can be made part of the community development budget or surplus funds could be used.

William Mianscum: We live in the 20th century; we are moving into a new millennium. Of course we “need” paved roads. The issue is a needs issue and Quebec needs to recognize that and authorize the paving project A.S.A.R

One of the criteria for paving is economic grounds and resource development, to stimulate economic growth in the territory. The one thing Quebec fails to recognize is that, we, the Cree people in Eeyou Astchee are a resource to be considered very seriously.

“Long after the last tree is cut down

Long after the last gold is extracted

Long after the last bit of mineral is extracted

We will be here.”

Are we not a resource (force) to be taken seriously? Yes, the roads need to be paved and I will continue to pursue the realization of this project.

Peter Coon: “Road in and to Mistissini must be paved.” Coon refers to the 1998 Memorandum ofUnderstanding as the place to get the roads paved. He points out that there are renewednegotiations regarding this issue between Mistissini and Quebec. Coon also refers to aMistissini local General Assembly resolution that confirmed “the improvement and pavingof the road to Mistissini is included and is a condition for the implementation of the MOU.”

Coon believes that paving the roads within the community should take a high priority becauseof the health problems experienced by residents. Then the road to Chibougamau should bepaved starting from Mistissini and continuing all the way to Chibougamau. He also believeslocal Crees should benefit from the employment opportunities. He sees a paved road as anecessity to Mistissini’s economic well-being. “A paved road is important for thesustainable development of the Mistissini’s people’s traditional lands and territories andwill be an important asset of the developing tourism industry for our region,” Coon writes.

Sam Etapp: “This has been a political campaign for past candidates for chief of this community. The track record has not been successful. It will require a sustained and focused effort to accomplish this particular task.

“I believe what is needed is the support of the entire community and its members, including the solicited support of our neighbours in the non-Native communities as well as the support of the Cree Nation.

“There is no excuse for any lack of support with this dossier from all fronts. The Cree Nation contributes significantly to Quebec society and economy and should receive a fair respect of its share of social benefits from a regional perspective. The office of chief cannot act alone.”

Improving Community living Conditions

Henry Mianscum: Points out Mistissini doesn’t have enough housing and if we had more and brought housing up to standards this would go a long way to improving Mistissini’s living conditions. Says a larger water treatment and sewage system is needed as well as a community water system.

Community development needs include a motel, community hall, recreation center as well as new businesses and industries. The most serious priority is employment. Mianscum says while we have to develop new employment we also have to develop new spending habits. We must spend more within our communities because this contributes to employment and a better economy.

Kenny Loon: “In order to improve the living conditions in the community of Mistissini, we must move towards a new direction. We must diligently towards achieving the objectives of Cree self-government.” He sees the Cree Naskapi Act as giving the Crees a legal framework to do so.

Loon says Mistissini has the potential to be a strong and vibrant community but needs the leadership to realize it. He points out that currently unemployment, a huge housing backlog exists, economic development “is a snail’s pace” and “community development is still in the planning stages.”

Loon sees self-government as striving for higher goals and taking control of Cree destiny and jurisdiction. He feels there is an “over-use and dependency on outside expertise for technical assistance which is very costly.” Loon says these high costs use up money that could be used to better the lives of Cree beneficiaries. He says it also leads to “eliminating employment opportunities for our members.”

Loon says there must be more employment opportunities for educated Crees as well as responsibilities. Loon writes that Cree must continue to protect their way of life. “We must not allow the resource developers to continue to destroy our sacred ancestral lands.”

Loon writes that a strong self-government would pressure the government to live up to its fiduciary obligations. The governments would be made to understand that “over-crowded housing is unhealthy and creates social problems,” and that an increased housing program would create employment and business opportunities while community and economic development would be taking place.

William Mianscum: “Shortage of housing is a very serious problem in Mistissini. All our social problems derive from this problem alone. I will continue to pursue innovative solutions to our lack of housing situation.

“The introduction to the private home ownership program and the rent-to-own program are certainly programs that need to be pursued as this contributes to an acceleration of the housing program. Those who can afford their own housing through these programs release their units to those on the long list waiting for regular housing. To have everyone confident to pay rent and other living necessities, we would have to pursue, aggressively, the creation of employment opportunities in various sec-

tors of the job market including resource development if the people support the resource to be developed. As well, we need to promote economic development and the introduction to new businesses. We need to develop an Economic Development Plan and a strategy to implement the plan; this is long overdue.”

Peter Coon: Wishes to acknowledge the many organizations that are working towards improving living conditions with Mistissini. He includes the Native Women’s Association, Cree Trappers’ Association, Elder’s Council, Youth Council and the local committees. Coon mentions the unsuitable housing as well as the backlog and points out that there are many other infrastructure deficiencies in the community. In health, Coon says, “Serious medical treatment issues at the clinic are being addressed by the Public Health department of Mistissini and the Cree Health Board.”

Unemployment and welfare are problems for Mistissini, says Coon. He sees part of the solution as entering into partnerships with Quebec and resource companies. These partnerships would have economic and employment benefits as well as being a way to protect Cree rights says Coon. He points out the Troilus Agreement as an “important model.” He sees a community economic development plan that is responsive to “the aspirations, needs and orientation of the community members” as being part of his mandate if elected.

He sees a need to integrate the educated Crees as well as looking for a way integrate traditional abilities and outlook in employment needs. He sees developing a commercial and professional assistance resource center. He would people inform by public announcements weekly.

Sam Etapp: “Please refer to the document, ‘Building on Our Past.’ The document is a work plan that I have proposed for the community of Mistissini. It is basically my personal assessment of the current state of affairs in our community and proposed certain issues during the next council’s term and the strategies to pursue for significant and realistic progress during the next four years.

“More importantly, it proposes working on a sustained and focused effort and commitmenton the part of everyone: community members, councillors and the chief.”