The lack of jobs for Cree youth could force many to leave Cree communities in search of employment, says James Shecapio. president of the Cree Youth Council.

“Hundreds of young Crees are coming back to the communities with higher education. They may look outside Cree communities if there are no jobs. That’s unfortunate because young Crees aspire to work for the Crees in any way they can.”

Shecapio called on Crees to develop a job-creation plan that respects traditional values. “There is no specific plan with that mission,” he said. Such a plan is especially needed, he added, to give direction to CreeCo., the holding company for Cree Construction. Air Creebec and the other economic entities. “CreeCo. won’t be able to accommodate young Crees unless it is reviewed. There needs to be a global plan in their efforts.”

Over 60 per cent of Crees are youth (aged under 29). Unemployment among Crees as a whole runs above 30 per cent. Yet. 70 per cent of the 665 employees at the three largest entities are non-Crees.

Shecapio would like to see Cree economic entities enact mandatory’ replacement policies to bring in more Crees. As well, he called for the promotion of small business projects and entrepreneurship at the local level. He also expressed concerns about money left in Cree heritage funds. “Will there be any heritage funds left if we keep bailing out Air Creebec?”

Shecapio flew to Ottawa last week to discuss the lack of jobs with Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith. Shecapio also wanted to press for the creation of a Cree Elders’ Circle and to discuss concerns about next year’s Youth Council budget. The youth have learned that their request for a $256,000 budget has been significantly trimmed to only $160,000. The budget may go even lower before the trimming is over. “There are not enough funds there to meaningfully pursue the aspirations of the youth,” Shecapio said.

But the meeting didn’t go ahead because Blacksmith was unexpectedly called away to Montreal. At press time, Shecapio hoped to fly to Montreal to catch up with Blacksmith.