For three days August 21-23, the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance (SAENCAT), in association with the city of Amos, hosted a delegation of business people from the surrounding area to showcase Cree business and opportunities.

The delegation’s composition was a highly diverse group of 16 businesspeople ranging from tourism, sales and hotels to surveying, engineering and electromechanics. The participants were given the chance to meet with key figures and organizations in each of the Cree communities.

The trip itself was not the first of its kind. Since 2002, SAENCAT has been organizing these junkets in the belief that establishing relationships between the communities is the basis for stronger growth in the region.

The junket went to the Cree communities of Waswanipi, Mistissini and Oujé-Bougoumou, and included a visit to the Langlois Mining Project located near Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

In Waswanipi, the delegation was introduced to Chief Paul Gull and various band council members, who gave the visitors a detailed explanation of the objectives of different Cree corporations and development projects in the community. In Mistissini, the group toured the band office and met with several local companies. Later Deputy Chief John Matoush discussed community development with the delegation.

The purpose of the trip was to create links between the Cree and the Abitibi-Témiscamingue communities to promote faster growth north of the 49th Parallel and to further the mutual cooperation between them.

The Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance was created in 2002 after the “Gateway to Building Economic Channels” symposium, which took place between the Cree communities and the people of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

Through the promotion of trade and cooperation, Cree cultural notions and practices begin to take their place as a tool to bridge the gap between both cultures. One of the main purposes of this junket was to confer on the business people the importance of respect when conducting business with their Cree partners.

In studies published by SAENCAT, they have found an increase in economic activity between local businesses and Cree organizations, such as band councils, as well as businesses and individuals.

Many of the businesses that have had an increase in relations with their Cree neighbours have done so because of SAENCAT. Thanks to the annual events and cultural business trips they organize, SAENCAT has made a lasting impression on Abitibi-Témiscamingue’s business community.

“SAENCAT is a first in both Quebec and Canada, making it the envy of many regions,” said SENCAT coordinator Pierre Ouellet, “It is the best equipped organization for establishing relations between the Cree and the business community of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and it will continue to grow more and more.”

The trip to the Langlois Mining Project was organized in collaboration with the Economic Development Department of Amos. In August 2011, Nyrstar finalized their acquisition of the Langlois Mine, which began commercial production in early 2012.

The delegation was given a tour of the facility and had the opportunity to learn about Nyrstar’s operations and prospects for the future of the zinc-and-copper mine. A surprise visit by Pascal Hamelin, the Vice President of Operations at Ressources Metanor Inc, opened even more connections to the group.

In regards to the junket, Amos Mayor Ulrick Chérubin said, “Long ago we worked to establish good relationships with our Cree friends. This mission is from the perspective of maintaining these links and promote our full potential.”