Consultations with the communities
first day of November hung heavy and grey as the car skidded along the icy
Route du Nord. We arrived in Nemaska in time for the feedback session of
the Grand Council’s Agreement-in-Principle consultation. Nemaska, the
most centrally located Cree community was the middle stop of a tour that
had already rolled through Waskaganish, Ouje-Bougoumou, Mistissini and
Waswanipi. This was an opportunity to see the political process at work.
meeting hall was filled to capacity as the afternoon session began just
after 3:00 p.m. Those who couldn’t find seats stood in the wings,
anxious to get a reading on the future of their community and the Cree
Nation. Seated at the Grand Council’s head table were: Robert Weistche,
Chief of Waskaganish; Sam Bosum, Chief of Ouje-Bougoumou; Bill Namagoose,
Executive Director; Ted Moses, Grand Chief; George Wapachee, Chief of
Nemaska; Abel Bosum, Head Negotiator; Robert Mainville, lawyer; and John
Paul Murdoch. Facing them was a Nemaska audience consumed with
residents began stepping up to the microphone to address the Grand
Council. the first to speak was tallyman Freddy Jolly, who introduced
himself and his trapline number, R-21. Mr. Jolly, who was visibly
concerned, would address the Council members a number of times that night
to emphasize the need to protect the rivers and the land. He also
expressed disapproval over the secrecy that shrouded the tabling of the
the ice was broken, the trickle of speakers turned into a flood. If the
residents were shy about public speaking, it didn’t show. The line
behind the microphone was five-deep at times. There was a sense of urgency
that filled the room. The more people that spoke, the more that others
wanted to add their voices. As the meeting progressed, things became more
heated. The community pressed the Grand Chief and his team for answers,
their biggest concern being the environment.
one point, one of the youth approached the head table to present Ted Moses
with a laminated poster and quotation, attributed as a Cree Indian
prophecy, that he had signed in the past. The Grand Chief read the
quotation aloud: Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after
the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been
caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
demonstration of disapproval occurred when some youth paraded into the
room displaying a spray-painted sign that read “Let Our Rivers Flow
Freely.” This was a community looking hard at its past, present and
future. The room was filled with all segments of Nemaska society: elders
and youth, mothers and fathers, students and teachers, trappers and
policemen. All there were trying to grasp the information being presented.
They were there to be counted, to voice their concerns, to have an affect
on the shape their world would take, to make themselves heard by the
one of the non-Native teachers added her voice to the proceedings, Grand
Chief Moses informed her that this was a Cree matter to be decided solely
by the Cree. The crowd turned its anger upon the Cree leader, chastising
him for what was interpreted as racism and a show of disrespect for the
teacher. The crowd’s anger over the remark illustrated just how
sensitive the community is to the Agreement-in-principle. They demanded an
apology. The Grand Chief did offer that he hadn’t meant any disrespect
and apologized if his remarks had been taken as offensive, maintaining
they weren’t intended to be so.
Orr talked about the loss of spirit with the sale of the land. “My mind
is confused, but my spirit knows what my answer is,” said Orr. Lindy
Moar stood up to speak about finding uses for the land other than mining
and forestry. Using Algonquin Park as an example, he pointed to the
possibilites for eco-tourism as a source for Cree revenue. He suggested
that Crees could create their own job opportunites without the help of
Hydro-Quebec or the forestry companies. Many talked about the need for
self-sufficiency, viewing the Agreement as yet another example of a
behalf of the Grand Council, lawyer Robert Mainville pointed out that,
while the outstanding Cree court cases are very strong, there is never a
guarantee of getting desired settlements out of the courts. He informed
the audience that legal cases are always a risk and that the Agreement
provides certainties that cannot be assumed in a court ruling.
Abel Bosum addressed the crowd, referring to the Agreement as a
tool to be used for the benefit of the Cree. Bosum said that the Grand
Council is basing the Agreement on two main principles, the preservation
of traditions and cultural identity and the need for the Cree world to
keep up with modernization.
the adults discussed the weighty issues at hand, the very children whose
lives would be most affected by the Agreement wandered in and out of the
room, bored and blissfully unaware of the world of politics. One
particularly energetic wee lad, in a bright red sweater, kept buzzing past
the head table emitting engine noises – the envy of us all. Only a child
could get away with it.
session carried on into the night and finally finished around 11:00 p.m.
The majority of the speakers were against the deal. Loss of the Rupert
River and development of the land were major sources of concern to the
community members. The issue of whether they could trust the government to
follow through on its promises was another major stumbling block for the
people of Nemaska.
or not the Council members liked what they were hearing, they did listen.
While they might not have been able to provide the kinds of answers the
community was looking for, the residents of Nemaska were able to join in
the political process, to address themselves to their leaders and their
fellow Crees. However the decision may go, as tough as it might be, one
thing is certain . . . Nemaska is involved, concerned, and very much
Report on Community Consultations
Agreement in Principle was signed on October 23rd,
2001 in Quebec City, immediately thereafter the entire Grand Council of
the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/Cree Regional Authority flew to Waskaganish to
begin explaining to the people of Eeyou Istchee the content of the
Agreement in Principle. This was done as the GCC(EI)/CRA was also well
aware of the need to explain the process of negotiations that had led to
the AIP and the reasons for holding the discussions with Quebec.
It was important to get the most accurate information out as soon
as possible in order to answer the peoples’ questions.
all communities the members expressed surprise at the announcement of the
signing of the Agreement in Principle.
The Council explained the reasons for the discussions with Quebec,
gave a detailed account of the content of the Agreement in Principle and
reviewed the next steps. The
negotiators and the Grand Chief answered questions and provided details on
the discussions and Agreement.
Community Consultation (October 23rd,
2001) – Present: GCC(EI)/CRA
Board-Council, and negotiators.
community consultation in Waskaganish was spread over two days as the
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/ Cree Regional Authority had
arrived late on the first day. The James Bay Communications Society
broadcast the meeting live to the other Cree communities. Initially
emotions were high in the community as people tried to come to terms with
what had been announced. The initial questions from community members
related to whether by signing the AIP the Council had already consented to
the diversion of the Rupert River. After a lengthy discussion it became clear to the members
that the Crees still had the power to decide and that the diversion was
Diamond asked questions with regards to the nature of the Agreement in
Principle. He stated that
although he was unsure as to the future of the Rupert River, he was sure
that if the Crees rejected the offer they might save the River but would
never see an equivalent monetary settlement.
community members then began to reflect on the content of the Agreement in
Principle and less on the process that led to it.
Trappers who would be directly affected by the proposed Rupert
diversion stated, that they could not think only of their own interests
and that they would take the Agreement in Principle and other information
from the meeting and when the time came, make a decision based on the
future of the Cree people as a whole.
were some youth from the community who had great difficulty with the
Agreement in Principle as they did not want the River to be diverted and
who apparently did not understand or value its financial aspects.
Other youth stated support because of the economic and community
development potentials of the AIP. There
were also those who expressed a dislike of the proposed Rupert Diversion
while stating that there were elements in the Agreement in Principle that
were very positive.
Waskaganish consultation ended with a general commitment to reflect on the
information that was provided and to be provided in the future, and to
make a decision that was appropriate for the Cree People
when the time came.
2001) – The following members of the Council and negotiators were
present for the meeting: Grand Chief Ted Moses, Deputy Grand Chief Matthew
Mukash, Chief Sam Bosum, Chief John Longchap, Chief Paul Gull, Abel Bosum
and John Paul Murdoch
community had to deal with not only with the announcement of the Agreement
in Principle but also with the release of results of a study that
demonstrated that the water in the area had been severely contaminated
with toxic substances. The questions from the community members therefore related to
the ability of Crees to hold organizations that polluted the environment
accountable for their actions. Community members were assured that the
right to hold individuals or organizations accountable through the courts
or other means was not negatively affected by the AIP. Further, it was
explained that with the AIP funding the Crees would become developers of
the territory themselves and would be more able to influence forestry
policy to make the cutting practices more respectful of the land and Cree
members of the community expressed support for the Agreement in Principle,
however all wanted more information on the impacts to the land of the
proposed hydro-electric development project.
Community Consultation (October
2001) - The following members of the Council were present: Grand Chief Ted
Moses, Deputy Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, Chief John Longchap, Chief Sam
Bosum, Chief Paul Gull, Abel Bosum, Bill Namagoose, Robert Mainville and
John Paul Murdoch
at Waskaganish, there was much concern over the confidential nature of the
process that had led up to the Agreement in Principle. After thorough
explanation the community understood the reasons for the process and the
importance and number of the issues involved. Questions were also asked as
to how the communities would express their consent or rejection of the
final agreement. Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses stated that as the Agreement in
Principle had already been concluded and the need for a referendum on the
Final Agreement would be an issue to be decided by the Cree Chiefs at a
special GCC(EI)/CRA Council/Board meeting to be called for that purpose.
the meeting it was evident that some of the documents that had been
circulated in the community had created false and misleading impressions
of the Agreement in Principle. This required the community consultation
team to correct misapprehensions about rights, indexation formulas and
what had been consented to. There was also misinformation with regards to the nature and
extent of impacts on Mistissini traplines and whether Lake Mistissini
would be affected by the Rupert Diversion Project. The information in the
possession of the community consultation team demonstrated that there
would be no effect on the water level of Lake Mistissini.
The team however undertook to obtain more complete information and
to have it presented to the community so that members could make an
they had concerns for the land, community members also spoke in support of
the Agreement in Principle, as in their view it contained opportunities
that would benefit future generations. The need for more employment
opportunities was seen as a major reason for supporting the Agreement in
2001) – The following members of the Council and negotiators were
present: Grand Chief Ted Moses, Deputy Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, Chief
Paul Gull, Chief John Longchap, Chief Sam Bosum, Chief Robert Weistche,
Abel Bosum, Bill Namagoose, Robert Mainville and John Paul Murdoch
the community of Waswanipi one youth who spoke very well and expressed
what has been the reaction of many people throughout Eeyou Istchee. He
stated when he first heard the announcement of the Agreement he was
shocked and angry and that when he read the Agreement in Principle and
tried to substantiate his anger, he was instead surprised to find that
Agreement in Principle contained elements that would be very beneficial to
the Crees over the long term.
discussion over the proposed forestry regime in the Agreement in Principle
demonstrated the differing interests involved and the reason that it is
often difficult to find solutions to the many issues.
On the one hand a trapper expressed his approval of the provisions
that would make forestry more compatible with the Cree way of life and
wanted stricter provisions in the Agreement on forest cutting.
On the other hand there were those individuals employed by Mishtuk
and Nabakatuk, the Waswanipi forestry companies, who while often
supporting a new forestry regime also expressed concern about the impact
of the proposed measures on the viability of the forest operations.
Community Consultation (November
2001) – Members of the Council and negotiator present: Grand Chief Ted
Moses, Chief George Wapache, Chief Sam Bosum, Chief Robert Weistche, Bill
Namagoose, Abel Bosum, Robert Mainville and John Paul Murdoch
Nemaska there was a small but vocal opposition to the Agreement in
Principle. In addition to environmental concerns, this group’s
opposition to the Agreement in Principle was also premised on the idea
that the Rupert Diversion was approved by the AIP - which was not true.
Second they were under the misapprehension that the Agreement in
Principle extinguished rights that the Crees had fought so hard to get. After the opposing individuals had stated their
concerns, many of the trappers who would be affected by the proposed
Rupert Diversion and Eastmain Dam and
other trappers expressed qualified support for the Agreement in Principle
as it brought the promise of future employment for the youth. The support
did however come with the request that every effort be taken so that the
employment created would in fact go to Cree individuals, as in the past
even Cree entities had had inadequate native hiring practices.
it was a long and emotional community consultation, Grand Chief Dr. Ted
Moses and the negotiating team left with renewed energy and resolve to
negotiate a Final Agreement in the best interests of the Cree People.
2001) - The following members of the Council and negotiators were present:
Grand Chief Ted Moses, Chief Edward Gilpin, Chief Robert Weistche, Chief
Sam Bosum, Abel Bosum and John Paul Murdoch.
community of Eastmain welcomed home Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses and
applauded his efforts. Many
of the community members expressed support for the Agreement in Principle.
Having recently gone through the experience of a hydro-electric project,
the trappers of Eastmain offered their support and advice to GCC(EI)/CRA
as well as to the communities to be affected by the Rupert
Diversion/Eastmain Project proposed in the Agreement in Principle. They
stated that they had a great deal of information that would be useful to
the GCC (EI) when negotiating with Hydro-Quebec. They added that the
affected trappers would be able to adapt to many of the changes in
landscape to be caused by the hydro project as the Eastmain trappers have
had to on their own lands as a result of La Grande Project. The trappers
recognized that dealing with the possible impacts to the land would not be
an easy matter, but in light of the potential benefits to all Crees
offered by the Agreement in Principle, it would be worthwhile.
2001) – The following members of Council and negotiators were present at
the meeting: Grand Chief Ted Moses, Chief Reggie Mark, Chief Sam Bosum,
Chief David Masty, Abel Bosum and John Paul Murdoch
of the members of the community of Wemindji who spoke at the meeting
expressed support for the Agreement in Principle. Some of the trappers
expressed the view that in the future there would not be a sufficiently
large land base if all Crees wanted to practice the traditional way of
life and that the Agreement in Principle offered hope of employment for
those youth who were unable or unwilling to practice the Cree way of life
on a full time basis.
there is extensive mining exploration activity in the Wemindji area, there
was concern about opening up the territory to non-native development. This
concern however was weighed by many against the financial resources and
employment offered in the Agreement in Principle that in their view gave
the Crees the opportunity to be developers.
They stated that the new relationship with Quebec would also help
to ensure that future development would happen in a manner more compatible
with the Cree way of life.
2001) – The following members of Council and negotiators were present:
Grand Chief Ted Moses, Chief Violet Pachanos, Chief Sam Bosum, Chief David
Masty, Chief John Longchap, Chief Paul Gull, Abel Bosum and John Paul
experienced the effects of the La Grande Hydroelectric Complex, the
community members of Chisasibi offered their support and advice to the
communities to be affected by the proposed Rupert Diversion/Eastmain
Project. Community members
stated that over the years they had a learned a great deal and were more
than willing to share it.
Kanatewat, former chief, thanked the Grand Chief and his negotiators for
their efforts in negotiating the Agreement in Principle. He stated that he
was particularly pleased to see that the Agreement in Principle was a
natural extension of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement and
implemented rights that so many had fought so long to acquire.
in Chisasibi stated that the Agreement in Principle gave hope for
employment for the many youth who to date had had few employment
Community Consultation (November
2001) – The following members of Council and negotiators were present in
the meeting: Grand Chief Ted Moses, Deputy Grand Chief Matthew Mukash,
Chief David Masty, Chief Sam Bosum, Chief David Masty, Chief John Longchap,
Chief Paul Gull, Abel Bosum and John Paul Murdoch.
in other communities, members expressed their concerns over the
confidential manner in which the Agreement in Principle was negotiated and
their concern about whether the Quebec government had dictated the agenda
of the discussions. The Grand
Chief reassured everyone that the process was kept confidential as without
this there would have been great difficulty in reaching a real possibility
of settlement. Complicated
court proceedings, frank exchanges of view on the issues and detailed
financial proposals made confidentiality important for both parties.
Further, he demonstrated that the Agreement in Principle was based
on Cree demands and Cree needs and expressed by Cree representatives.
in other communities there was a concern for the next steps in the process
and a request for more information.
each community there are many individuals who support the Agreement in
Principle and others who expressed opposition to it, or to some aspects of
it. There was a consensus among all people though, that more information
would be needed. The GCC(EI)/CRA committed to provide more information as
quickly as it is possible to obtain it.
Individuals were also encouraged to provide any suggestions or to
express any concerns that they may have to any of the following addresses:
Metcalfe St., Suite900
Duke St., Suite 100
are planned with the Post-Secondary Students of the Cree School Board in
Montreal, Ottawa and North Bay.
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