Battle for the Rupert 





Giving away the river 10/29/01


Commentary: Crees surrender their great river Rupert

  . Commentary: 25 years of force-fed acculturation

Cree deal a model or betrayal? 12/10/01


$3.6 billion deal unraveling 12/10/01

  . Hydro Quebec's hidden agenda 12/15/01
  . Cree leaders may have deal in a week 12/19/01

Grand Chief Moses Quebec's hero 12/19/01



AIP  Agreement in Principle signed on the Rupert River, Oct. 23/01


CRA  Cree Regional Authority, the administrative government


Eeyou Istchee  Cree homeland. Meaning:  People's Land


Eeyouch  Cree people


GCCEI   Grand Council of the Crees, governing body of Cree Nation whose members are chiefs of the nine communities


JBNQA James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975), the first agreement


NBR   Nottaway-Broadback

-Rupert Project, to be phase III of James Bay Project



Former Grand Chief Billy Diamond

The Nation: Do you find this Agreement is good for the Crees?

Former Grand Chief Billy Diamond: This Agreement in Principle is unexpected. It came out of nowhere. What I like about the agreement is that it will continue with the implementation of the JBNQA. The difficulty I have with it is including the Eastmain and particularly the Rupertís River Diversion after all the Crees have done. There was the special Annual General Assembly in Waskaganish in June 2001. Now weíre saying in that agreement that the Crees give consent to the Rupertís River Diversion. Giving up consent like that to me is very difficult. I have problems with the Rupertís River Diversion because we donít know whatís going to happen to the river. The Rupertís River is our lifeline in Waskaganish. It is our heritage river. It is our past; it was part of the fur trade route that connected us to our Cree cousins in Nemaska, Mistissini and these types of places. It was a river that we used to come together and now we are going to divert it. Thatís the hard part. We have to look at the agreement and study together to see what the consequences are.

What about the money?

The money was always there. It was hidden in the original JBNQA. What has been done in this case is to take the Quebec obligations and those obligations have been quantified. In this case the money is going to come sooner. Instead of waiting for implementation, court cases or arguing it will be sooner. In our past experience, as Crees, when money is involved and there are specific schedules, then the government has always been there with the cheque. So what we have to do is be much more specific. But itís only a 50-year agreement so the money will be there for 50 years and you have to be careful because we are surrendering future obligations and we have to weigh the consequences of that. You are giving up future obligations for more than just this generation. The generation in the 51st year is the ones who are going to feel the impact. In my opinion the obligations wonít be there. The lawyers say otherwise and say weíll go back to the JBNQA. Theyíre taking the past and future obligations and quantifying them into dollars and receiving those dollars. Then the Crees will be implementing the obligations themselves. It will be a difference. The Crees will not be going to Quebec to complain anymore, they will be going to the Grand Council and the CRA. This worries me when you see the same people who are asking for the implementation will be at another level the people making the decision.

Itís been said that this agreement is partly the result of past negotiators such as yourself. Do you see some of what you were working towards in it?

I finally got my hands on a signed copy and have been going through it and studying it. I see the agreement going back in time to 15 or 20 years. As far back as the La Grande Agreement in 1986, there are sections that previous negotiators have been involved in. There were previous negotiations on the Eastmain River but none of them included the Rupertís Diversion.

This is a global settlement and I feel there is a danger in that in the sense of negotiating. What happens if one party does not agree? Does that mean the agreement falls apart? Itís important that in the next round that the communities start asking questions on how we will deal with that.

Another problem I have with the Agreement, and this came out in Waskaganish, is the time frame. This is being done really fast for a such a legal and complicated agreement. To analyze and study it you need time. The agenda has been set and I wonder whose agenda we are following. Is it theirs or ours?

There have been comments from the communities about the secrecy surrounding the agreement. What do you think of it?

We asked questions in Waskaganish about who negotiated it and why now. I think thatís why you see the hostility from the young people. The youth feel very betrayed by the Cree leadership. The sense of betrayal is showing up in their anger. I have never seen meetings like since the early 70ís when the James Bay Project was announced and the information meetings after. These meetings were very emotionally charged.

The young people feel betrayed and excluded. Thatís why the question of secrecy has come up. But you have to understand that in negotiations, having meeting while you are negotiating there are certain things people will say in public and there are things you will not say in public, like specific details. Still when you are working on an agreement in principle someone should have told the people we are working on an agreement with the Premier of Quebec. Thatís why it shocked the people.

Thereís a level of trust involved considering Quebecís past record in upholding its end of the bargain. Do you think we can suddenly say fine, come on back, give us some money and whatnot, we trust you again?

I think thatís why there is shock right now among the Cree people. In my community people are saying why and why now? What happened to change our position?  After years of Quebec bashing and confrontation. There were speeches in New York, Geneva and why this sudden switch? What convinced the Cree leadership? These are things the Cree people want to know and have answers to. I think this requires dialogue at the community level. When you hear of something like this for the first time itís hard. Itís going to take time for this to sink in. In the meantime people are going to want answers. I mean we been hammering away and hammering away and all of sudden weíre going to stand with Quebec. I can understand wanting to develop a relationship and strategic alliance with Quebec. But what we have done in effect with this agreement in principle is to extend Quebecís jurisdiction by allowing them to proceed with the hydro development, forestry and with mining. We end up absorbing the legal costs of all our court cases with Quebec. These were cases in which we insisted our rights were in and Quebec should implement their obligations. These questions will have to be answered at the community level.

What do you see as Cree Consent being in this case? Do you see it as just the chiefs, a community-by-community vote or a referendum?

My version of Cree consent, is the consent to the Eastmain and Rupertís rivers diversion, is that it requires consent of the communities directly impacted. All the communities will be impacted by this I believe because the water is diverted and that particular consent should never have been given in the agreement. I said that in the meeting in Waskaganish that Cree consent has been given. You have in effect authorized Hydro-Quebec to go ahead. Our leadership disagrees with me on that. I said that in the Agreement it says Crees hereby consent. We have agreed to disagree on this point.

I donít think that an agreement of this magnitude should be where itís just the chiefs who decide. The people should have time to decide on it and determine if they are happy with it.

Reprinted with permission of  The Nation

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