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


Agreement in Principle

Letters to the editor

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I smell a rat

Please be careful: I smell a rat! This agreement with Mr. Landry sounds terrible. You will be paid to provide the services that the government of Quebec should be paying for. You will be providing these services with a very unrealistic budget.

With this agreement, the government of Quebec receives billions for your electricity and you receive nickels and dimes to provide services for your people.

If you receive a fair price then I should pay more for my electricity here in Southern Quebec. I would rather pay more and you receive a fair price and be able to sleep at night. With this deal I am not certain I will sleep good at night, I will though continue to have cheap electricity and the government will make a fortune selling the rest to the Americans.

Peter Nagle

Beauceville, Quebec

We have a chance for the future

I am writing to comment on what I saw and heard in the community consultations at Waskaganish, Nemaska, Waswanipi and Mistissini.   It is fair to say there was support for the Agreement in Principle the Cree leadership had signed.  Some people were critical of the AIP and they tended to voice their concerns first in the meetings.  Once they had spoken there were others in the room that asked questions about the Agreement or who expressed real interest in seeing it completed so that they could begin to enjoy the benefits.

There were a lot of concerns about losing the river.  The river is part of our history and is very important to Waskaganish. The river has three Cree communities on it and was the route used to haul Hudson Bay Company goods and more importantly it maintained our relationships with each other. It was also an important travel route to the inland hunting grounds. 

To this day the river is important for the Notimeshanan fishing site.  The people who hunt in that area said that while he saw the importance of the fish, he also recognized the benefits that the Agreement would have for future generations.  Some were disrespectful to the Grand Chief in the language they used and should have just stated their point of view. The majority of those who spoke supported the Agreement and wanted to learn more about it.

In Waswanipi there was support for the Agreement.  Some of the youth expressed their support.  People were generally interested in the impact of the agreement on forestry and seemed to be interested in what was already in the AIP.  One elder who was obviously very emotional about the land commented that it was part of the heritage of the people and was glad that the Crees right to benefit from resource development is part of the AIP. He also stated that this generation that thrived on hunting and fishing has an obligation to hand the next generation an opportunity to thrive in the contemporary way of life.

Mistissini was different only in that the Youth Chief Ashley Iserhoff spoke out against the AIP and the process leading up to it.  Many of the criticisms made reflected a lack of understanding of the AIP.  The majority of the speakers in Mistissini spoke in favor of the Agreement and these included elders.

In Nemaska there were young people and a couple of non-native teachers who recently moved to the community, speak out against the AIP.  They had a group of very young children, who could not have understood the complexities of the AIP bring in a placard against the Agreement.  I felt that these children were to young to be involved in this way.  The teachers were given a chance to speak and did so accusing the Grand Chief of selling out.  I was particularly incensed when one of them suggested that the Crees look into alternative energy, as if the proposed project would be built for Cree energy needs.  She should campaign in the south were they have an insatiable appetite for electricity which in turn causes the north to be inundated.

One of the Nemaska hunters monopolized the microphone for hours, which may have caused some people to be reluctant to speak. When the meeting was nearly over other members began to speak and expressed an interest in going forward with the AIP.  The consensus in the room seemed to be in favor of the agreement, as expressed by Chief Wapachee afterwards.

Overall, I observed the most vocal critics were for the most part Crees in their late 20’s and early 30’s who said that they spoke for the youth and who also had good jobs in the community.  I was left wondering whether the youth who see that all the jobs in the community are taken and who wonder about where they would find work in the future think of the AIP.

I think that the AIP is the best agreement that is achievable at this time.  It is government to government and the funding will make the Crees a significant force in the economic development of the territory. It is not a Nation to Corporation agreement.

The Cree government will take over Quebec’s powers and obligations to the Cree Nation and carry them out itself. Our right to benefit from extraction of our natural resources is respected. 

With this funding we have a chance to make jobs for the future generations and to provide housing and community facilities for the present.  We have to negotiate a final settlement and we will need to stand together if we are to succeed.             

The Cree who are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet have an obligation to represent the facts accurately. I noted the comments made in the Yahoo James Bay discussion group about the fact that the Grand Chief received a lot of criticism in Mistissini does not respect this obligation. The Internet is a powerful tool not yet fully utilized by the average Cree Nation citizen due to high costs. The outside world who get their information through this medium need to be aware of this.

Bill Namagoose

Letter to Mr. Ashley S. Iserhoff

Youth Grand Chief / Chairman

Cree Nation Youth Council  

Dear Mr. Iserhoff,

I am writing to you in reply to your letter of October 30th 2001. I welcome comment that is aimed to better understand the Agreement in Principle (AIP) with the Government of Quebec. In your letter you raise several points that I will comment on:

1.  You ask for more time to consider the AIP. From the signing of the agreement on October 23rd we have over two months to review and consider it and to elaborate the text of the final agreement. Consultations on the AIP and the final agreement will continue thereafter. I was involved in the negotiations of the JBNQA. There, the Cree negotiated an agreement of over 30 chapters in ten months. In light of past experience, I do not believe it is unreasonable to complete in two months these discussions with Quebec concerning in large part the implementation of one chapter of the JBNQA.

2.  You claim the amounts provided under the AIP are insufficient. I have used financial experts in the negotiation of this agreement, as has Quebec. I do not know the source of your financial figures but they are misleading and substantially incorrect. Moreover, the adequacy of the funding going to the Crees should be judged in terms of whether it would be a significant boost to the Cree communities, to Cree employment and to our economy. I believe that it will be a very significant source of funding for our Nation. Indeed a minimum amount of $70 million per year is indeed a very large amount by any standard. It is the largest payment to be made to an aboriginal Nation in Canada in respect to economic and community development. The funding is far in excess of any other funding arrangement found in any other agreement signed by the Cree Nation. With the large amount of funding to be received, we will determine how we build our communities and economies. I have confidence that this financial resource will be used wisely by the Cree Nation and for the benefit of all.

3.  You mention the fact that we should be the owners of the enterprises on our Territory in partnership with others. I agree and it is one reason that I support the present agreement. The funding provided and the new legal structures established, such as the Cree Development Corporation, will assist us in investing in enterprises in our region and in creating real partnerships.

4.  You state that a Cree veto on development should be obtained. The Grand Council and myself have always taken the position that we have this right of veto. This is what we have argued before the courts. Though you seem to question whether this right exists, I have never doubted it. The AIP reinforces this right since Quebec is seeking our consent to specific projects. The Cree have always and will continue to use this right wisely and in the long-term interest of the Cree Nation.

5.  As concerns the recent report on Ouje-Bougoumou metal contamination resulting from old mining projects, I share your preoccupation as does all the Cree leadership. This is why this issue was fully discussed with Quebec in the AIP. Thus, the AIP specifically states that its provisions “shall not affect the rights and recourses of the Crees and shall in no way affect the recourses of Cree individuals resulting from contaminants (such as mercury or other metals and substances) arising from the development of the James Bay territory”. In addition, the AIP specifically states that all future mining development will be subject to the applicable environmental legislation and to the environmental and social protection regime stipulated in section 22 of the JBNQA.  In addition, since the release of the report concerning Ouje-Bougoumou, and in light of the new relationship with Quebec, the Premier’s Office has set up a task force to review the situation and suggest appropriate measures to address the issue. Quebec will also have to take measures with the people of Chapais and Chibougamau, as they do not seem to have been considered, to see if they share the problem with the Cree community. As I stated above, the problems stem largely from mines in this area that were approved before the James Bay Agreement. However, I would like to know, as I am sure those people who have been at risk are eager to find out, just how widespread this problem is. We will do whatever is necessary to resolve this matter.

6.      Greenpeace has helped us in the past on environmental issues. However, you refer to Greenpeace in your letter as somehow being the protector of our traditional economies. You seem to forget that it is Greenpeace that is largely responsible for the devastation of traditional aboriginal economies by initiating anti-fur campaigns. These campaigns have resulted in the demise of the economic basis of the traditional economies of most aboriginal nations in Canada including our own. We have been successful in preserving our traditional activities in part because of the ISP program and the numerous remedial works programs available for our trappers and hunters. This we succeeded in spite of Greenpeace and its anti-fur campaigns. Other aboriginal groups have not been as fortunate.

7.  You mentioned tourism as a future potential for the development of the Cree economy. I know that some of the Cree miners who worked at Troilus invested their money in a tourism venture. Future development will have to be a balance of different activities, including Cree traditional pursuits, forestry, mining, tourism and hydroelectric development as well as manufacturing, construction etc. Not everyone is suited or wants to work in tourism. I say that we should develop all kinds of ventures, including tourism. The Cree people are ready to play a major role in the development. We have waited too long by the side of the road while others find work and investment opportunities in the Territory. The new AIP gives us the opportunity to look into all these possibilities and to choose for ourselves.

8.  While there are those such as yourself who have worked in the band office, at the Cree Regional Authority, at the School and Health Boards or in other Cree institutions, there are just as many other Crees who do not have jobs. I see many youth sitting at the back of the meeting rooms, silent and without a chance at employment. You, of all people, should be acutely aware of this. These people will need the jobs that we can create with the funding that we will receive under this presently proposed agreement. I praise the Cree institutions for what they have accomplished but we must work together because we have much more that needs to be done. By addressing the problems of unemployment and lack of community facilities we will help to motivate children in school and we will give people ways of addressing personal and family problems. If we decide to reject the AIP then investment in our communities and in job creation will have to wait while we spend our resources on legal and public campaigns. I would rather bring hope and a future to the Cree youth. Rhetoric is easy, but in the end it is the results that count.

9.  You suggest that Quebec will punish us in the future if we do not conform to their wishes, by withholding payments under the new Agreement. You are wrong. The text of the new agreement will clearly protect these payments. With the increased economic strength that we will gain with the present proposal, we will be more effective in influencing public policy. We will work with Quebec in a cooperative manner to accomplish our goals. We have never been daunted by threats in the past to funding of the School Board or Health Board, just because we disagree with Quebec or Canada on some issue. What makes you believe that our resolve will be different in respect to economic development? We will continue to protect and strengthen our rights.

10. You say that the funding for “running” our community sanitation systems, fire services, creating community centers and “a host of other obligations” have not been properly considered. The cost of running the sanitation systems, fire services, and community centers is largely part of our Cree/Naskapi Act funding and comes from Canada. Some of the obligations of Quebec in section 28 are assumed by the Crees through the AIP. Quebec has contributed almost nothing to these in the past. The AIP will ensure a huge new contribution from Quebec for these purposes. This not only includes buildings, but also employment initiatives and help for Cree entrepreneurs as well as assistance for our trappers and hunters. In the past Quebec has paid minuscule amounts in regard to these matters. In the future the funding will be substantial. We have examined the numbers and they are correct.

11. I assure you that we have carefully done the calculations required to understand the funding. We have looked at the present value and we realize that the future funding will likely exceed the amount of $70 million per year as the resources produced from the Territory increase in volume and value over time. I do not accept your language in suggesting that we proceed with “blind trust” in this matter. I rather believe that it is you that is blind to the enormous benefits this AIP brings to the Cree Nation.

12. You refer to a General Assembly resolution concerning the protection of Cree rights. Please note that the AIP is in complete conformity with this resolution since Cree rights are in no way whatsoever diminished by the AIP. On the contrary, Cree rights are enhanced and reinforced by the AIP. The proposed agreement is an implementation of some of the Quebec obligations in Section 28 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. It in no way diminishes the rights of the Cree people. On the contrary, it implements and reinforces them, as the Crees have always demanded. The difference is that in the new agreement we, the Crees will decide the priorities. Moreover, you forget that at the last General Assembly, a resolution was passed specifically mandating me to negotiate with Quebec the participation of the Cree in natural resources development of the territory. I have been acting under this specific mandate in carrying out the AIP.

While I appreciate points that you raise in your letter, it prejudges the proposed agreement and does not reflect a considered understanding of it. Indeed, rather than allowing time for debate on the issue when we came to Mistissini on the 30th of October, you sent out the letter the same day and four days after your press release of October 26th wherein you imply that the process is an assault on our democracy. I am disappointed that someone who purports to represents the youth acted without giving time for due consideration of the issues. I have spent my life protecting Cree rights including our right to democratic process. We are faced with a unique opportunity. The offer before us could run out. Those who call for indefinite delays so that we can consider the offer at their leisure also assume the responsibility if the AIP is lost. I invite you to take the time to understand the reasons that things had to be done as they were and to understand the offer itself.

It would be sad if one of the most important opportunities ever for the Cree Nation were lost because of misinformed criticism.  We have a tradition of dealing with our issues together and of forming a consensus on our position. You have violated our tradition by sending a press release attacking the democratically elected Cree leadership, by inviting Greenpeace and other non-Crees to criticize a Cree position brought by the elected leadership before even the Cree People have been able to understand and comment on it!

This is an important issue and one that will influence the futures of our communities and of our nation. We must act together if we are to build the Cree Nation.

Sincerely yours,

Grand Chief Ted Moses

Reprinted with permission of  The Nation

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