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



Grand Chief Ted Moses

The Nation: Why would you say this agreement is good for the Crees?

Grand Chief Ted Moses: I would say this is good for the Crees because it resolves all past disputes which now have gone and were about to be heard by the courts. You have to use your own resources to fight and the governments haven’t made a move to resolve them. It’s resolving past issues. There are some fundamental gains like you get to participate in resources being extracted from Eeyou Istchee. We have the opportunity to participate in the development of the territory, not just in our communities. We can participate in partnership with Quebec companies and with each other. We would have the resources to do that. We can develop at own pace without interference from Quebec, without asking Quebec how we should develop our economies and our communities. That is a big thing. We now have the autonomy to do that.

We still have to get give audit and financial reports. What’s to stop them from saying we’re not giving you money because you’re not spending it the way you should?

Well, like most of us whether or not we have an agreement we have to spend our money wisely. I think that’s a principle that applies to the Crees. We’ve gotten used to in the past 25 years of submitting financial statements to the governments. We’ve demonstrated we can spend the money on what it has been intended for.

What do we gain out of this agreement?

We’ve gained the resources, which will allow us to develop at our own pace, which we don’t have now. Anything you want to do you need money no matter what. No one can convince me that in this day of modernization you don’t need money to go anywhere. I look at it as a tool to enable us to do all the things I mentioned previously.

What do we lose in the agreement?

I don’t think we lose much. It would be safe to say we don’t lose anything. We don’t lose any of the Cree rights. The rights are maintained. The other provisions are maintained with the exception of the economic and community development and this is just for the duration of the Agreement and then it will be reinstated. All we are saying is that instead of Quebec doing it we’ll do it ourselves and use the resources to do that.

What about the Rupert’s River?

Sure, there’s a Rupert’s River diversion. There will be one and it definitely means that parts of the river will be dried up in the case of Eastmain River. There will be some flooded traplines in Eastmain, Nemaska and Mistissini but the rest of the territory will be pretty much intact. Broadback and Nottaway will not be developed and we make no mention of Whapmagoostui but it’s not slated for development.

What do you see Crees doing with the money we’ll be getting?

We’ll definitely begin to address immediate needs. That’s what we’ll have to do when we establish our own priorities. The Youth definitely need jobs. We’ll have to look at innovative ways on how we can do that. We will meet that objective using the resources we’ll have. We have monies for infrastructure because that would be Quebec’s contribution. We’re not saying that Canada’s obligations are finished here either but we could look at housing. We can put money where we want to focus and the needs arise. We have big needs in different areas that have to be addressed. 

How did the Agreement come about?

It’s a combination of many things, past efforts, the Cree campaigns and statements. The fact that we have close to 30 legal proceedings that have been filed. The fact that we are in court on forestry, which has been perceived as a threat. Campaigns in the states and Cree participation in international forums. It’s a combination of the efforts of everyone in the past 20 to 25 years to implement the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The differences between the Crees and Quebec was getting wider and we live in the same province.

We showed we’d rather negotiate than litigate. We want results rather than an ongoing fight. My meetings with Premier Laundry talked about development, whether we consider ourselves a nation and my feelings about revenue sharing and partnership. Whether the Cree and Quebec can coexist came up. I think the events of September 11th played a role in showing we live in a really small world. We cannot let our differences divide us forever.

When did you start negotiations?

Exploratory discussions started about six weeks ago to test the waters. The real negotiations started two weeks prior to me announcing it to the chiefs. It was at a very high level with the premier and myself. We each had another person to balance things out. It was a very small group where we agreed to respect certain rules and conditions. It started after I asked that Quebec appoint a negotiator at a high level directly under the Premier. A no nonsense type of negotiations. They saw we wanted to resolve forestry and Quebec wanted to develop the north. They saw that they could not go further with development with the way things stood. So after some reflection Quebec called the Cree negotiator and started some discussions. Things began to unfold and events began to happen very, very rapidly. At the political will the Premier and myself were the top negotiators. The fundamental principles were laid done by us and the day-to-day negotiations were done by a couple of people on each side.

What were the hardest part of the negotiations?

I think the hardest part was determining whether we could resolve these disputes. It was a question of political will and putting the past behind us. We cannot always relive that; let’s go for something new and innovative that will be result oriented. This is opposed to an ongoing process that had very little results.

How’s the Agreement good for Quebec?

It means we have to co-exist. We’re permanent residents in Eeyou Istchee and we know the people of Quebec are not going to move. If we’re going to co-exist we have to put aside our differences and stop fighting. We have to find ways to accommodate each other where both sides benefit. We didn’t want a situation where it’s one at the expense of the other because Aboriginal people throughout the world have been subject to marginalization, neglect and exclusion. I did not want to see that continue forever for the Crees so we had to do something.

Why the Secrecy?

That was part of the rules. We didn’t want news to get out before we even concluded whether or not there was anything solid. For me to go back to my people with just a verbal offer wasn’t acceptable. This is a news-breaking story and we could see where people might give it their own twist before anything concrete came out of it. We were concerned with hardliners in the Government of Canada who believe the Crees shouldn’t get anything more. We were concerned with the reaction of the public as well as the opposition in the National Assembly. We were concerned with the response of the Federal Government as the third party to the JBNQA. They aren’t a part of this deal. Rather than leave the doors open to people scuttling it by whatever means we opted to make the talks secret. It you want to get your work done and concluded then you have to make sure that you have the opportunity to do so.

How will “Cree consent” be given and what does it mean in your opinion?

Cree consent will come about as part of the final agreement in which the Cree people will

Have an opportunity to say yes or no. If they say no then there is no deal. If they say yes then I will have a mandate to sign the agreement. Then we’ll have a final agreement with Quebec. So it’s a question of allowing the people to answer that question.

Do you think the Cree Chiefs have the right to sign the deal?

Definitely. It’s part of being a leader and we always have ambitions of bringing back something to our communities. To be able to tell them we are bringing this back for your benefit and we can do things with that. There’s been so many meetings where we have come back empty handed.

We have responsibilities as a leader otherwise why are you chosen as a leader if you have to run back every time a decision is needed. Leaders are decision-makers.

Some Crees are calling for a referendum. Are you in favor of that?

I have no problem with that. We haven’t discussed among ourselves in what form the decision will be made. That’s something that will be decided on in the next few weeks. We hear people wanting a referendum. Some people have said all 13,000 and so odd people should vote on this but we have to be realistic. We have to think with our heads. Those people who are capable of that will have to draw a line. Consultation will be done. We are doing that already.

Would you be willing to put the same type of resources and effort that went into the Cree referendum during Quebec’s secession referendum?

The Quebec referendum was a different issue, an emotional issue with big consequences. It’s not the issue of the day. It’s a non-starter. If we had that on the table we’d still be spinning our wheels. We will find ways. We’re spending time in the communities and there will be consultations for the conclusion of the agreement and even after the agreement.

Do you think the agreement diminishes Cree rights in any way?

Definitely not. It does not affect the other provisions of the agreement. The land regime is still intact, the hunting fishing, trapping, the income security will still continue, the education, they are not affected with this. In fact Quebec says they will not take the CSB to the Supreme Court. That’s a big concession. Health services will continue. They’ve agreed to negotiations for the improvement of health services. Environmental continues. Development will subject to the social and environmental section under the JBNQA. We gain certain things so rights have not been affected. Whatever rights we wanted to deal with in the court cases, well, we’re going to put them aside for right now. If we need to argue them then we can take them off the shelf and argue them. So we’re not giving up right or agreeing to extinguish any of them. We haven’t released the government of Canada from its obligations. Even though we’re withdrawing the court cases as far as Canada is concerned they still apply.

It enhances and reinforces Cree rights in the sense that you’re viewed as a participant and as a partner rather than an adversary that is confined to your village.

There’s a great level of trust involved in this. The JBNQA and MOU’s of 95 and 98 were unimplemented as well as others. How do you reconcile this?

We’ve demonstrated political will to resolve our differences. The agreement in principle clearly demonstrates that. We don’t have to be enemies necessarily all the time. You can establish new relationships and become friends. That’s better for both sides.

Why the rush?

We’re not rushing. It’s the end of December and that’s the time we feel we need to conclude it. The longer we talk the more time there is for circumstances to go beyond your control. There could be elections and nothing happens so you won’t have a final agreement. A new government could mean no deal and no chance for another deal. We have to look at what is in front of us and ask what is in our best interests. We think we can do it.

“I won’t sell the land for any price.” That was one of your campaign quotes. What do you say to that?

Billy Diamond, when he was Grand Chief in 1974, quoted the late Martin Hunter: “This land is not for sale even for millions and millions of dollars.“ And we have the JBNQA. It is not to say we have sold the land and it is someone else’s property that you cannot go on. We’re going to be there in Eeyou Istchee and we are going to be there as partners. If people want to take advantage of tourism opportunities, then that will be possible. If people want to establish companies that will create jobs then that is possible. If you want to invest in an opportunity, then it’s possible. You cannot do that if you sold the land and it is the private property of someone else.

You also said you wouldn’t sign anything without consulting the people. The implications were that you would be a more open Cree government so some people are angry about that saying you weren’t open. How do you feel about that?

We’ve been open. We’ve met in the Cree communities and the meetings have been open to the public. We have in camera sessions when we deem fit. People and entities can attend the meeting. I did not sign an agreement without consulting my people. I consulted the Cree chiefs. I satisfied myself of their complete support when all nine agreed at the council/board to adopt by way of resolution what I did. At that level that is the type of consultation you have to have. I satisfied my campaign promise as to that. It’s the people who will give the chiefs and council the mandate who will in turn give me the mandate to sign. With that I have fulfilled my campaign promise.

Is there anything you want to add?

On a final note I would like to say it is an opportunity. As much as it is seen as an emotional issue, for me it was difficult, I have a trapline and this decision will affect my family. I thought about these issues and came to grips with myself. While I was out in the bush I convinced myself I now have to think with the wisdom that God, the Creator gave me, not with my heart. I shouldn’t let the emotions at the time supercede the wisdom that I have in regards to the vision I have for the future. I had to come to terms with some issues. I asked myself, “Are you ready and willing to resolve the disputes you have with Quebec even though there are certain things that will be extremely difficult to accept by certain people? Will you take the easy way out and continue to use Cree resources and fight and which may not benefit my people and deprive them of the right to develop and benefit and improve the quality of life for the whole Cree Nation.” I’ve come to the conclusion with the wisdom I have that I’ll take that bold step to resolve these disputes rather than continuing the fight. In the long run if people agree and support it they will find that it is a good decision, as opposed to saying no. I’d like people to think about that as much as it may hurt. Take a few days to reflect on it and arrive at an intelligent decision.  

Reprinted with permission of  The Nation

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