With the consultation process now finished, many youth feel they were never given a fair chance to express their concerns. Two meetings took place but to no avail – the Grand Chief never showed up.
Youth representatives from all nine communities made the long trek to meet with each other in Washgakanish on Jan. 16. The purpose was to voice their thoughts and concerns to Grand Chief Ted Moses and ask their own many questions about the AIR Over 150 young people gathered in the school gymnasium. After the meeting had been in progress for half an hour, they received the news that Ted Moses’ mother-in-law had passed away. Out of respect, they recessed the meeting and decided to reconvene the following week.
On January 24th, the representatives gathered a second time in Chisasibi, hoping to have their voices heard by the leadership. They called the meeting into session at 10 pm – and waited.
Jean Paul Murdoch arrived out of his own interest and informed Ashley Iserhoff, Youth Grand Chief, that the leadership would be too busy to meet that night or the following day. As a consolation, Jean-Paul volunteered to sit and answer as many questions as he could.
“We’ve been travelling all day, yet we’re still sitting here and we are ready to talk but we’ve been pushed aside once again,” said Pakesso Mukash, Deputy Youth Grand Chief. “I feel totally disrespected. He could have come up here and said Tm sorry guys, I can’t do this.’ He could have showed up himself – but he hasn’t. How are we supposed to take this?” John Brown of Eastmain commented that he did not see any youth sitting with the negotiating group. He asked Ashley Iserhoff if the Grand Council ever invited youth to be a direct part of the process.
Iserhoff stated that the Regional Youth Council did request a youth representative to be appointed but that nothing came of it.
“We not only speak for ourselves, we speak for our kids,” stated Stella Bearskin of Chisasibi, “If they can change the schedule for the communities, why can’t they make time for us? One day out of 50 years is not too much to ask.” The delegates criticized the schedule the Grand Council has been following. Community consultations were moved because of various delays, yet the February 7th signing date has remained the same. As they understand the agreement, it is supposed to empower the Cree but they have had to fit into the schedule of the Quebec government. The question was raised: who is really in control?
The group asked questions and listened to each other into the night and early morning – without ever seeing the Grand Chief.
The next morning most of the delegates headed home empty handed. Pakesso Mukash and Matthew Iserhoff, however, wanted answers and were not ready to give up.
That afternoon, on January 25th, the Grand Council was listening to and answering the questions of the Chisasibi people. Mukash and Iserhoff took that opportunity to inform the public what had happened the night before and asked Ted Moses for an apology.
“You said we’d play it by ear and you apparently have no ear for the youths’ concern,” Mukash said to the Grand Chief.
Ted Moses responded that he did not owe the youth an apology. He also stated that he had given the youth an ample amount of time to meet with him and many invitations to provide their input.
Mukash maintains that that was not the case. “I don’t think he is planning much of a career in politics because we are the ones coming up and he is blowing us off.”