Cree-Quebec Government Deal
News articles


Well, they went ahead and did it. Money wins again. 
My interpretation of this is that the Northern Quebec Cree have bowed to political and developmental pressures and have sold out the natural environment for money. I guess just about anybody can be bought if they try long enough. 

Once again it's Humans 1, Nature 0.

News stories on this page are in order from newest to oldest, with the latest news release at the top of the page.

The most Feb 5/02 news story is obviously quite biased in favour of the deal.



Cree Approve New Agreement with Quebec

NEMASKA, Quebec, Canada
February 5, 2002 

In secret ballot referendums held among the Cree which ended Sunday, close to 70 percent voted to approve an Agreement in Principle establishing a new relationship between the government of Québec and the James Bay Crees.

The Agreement in Principle, reached last October 23, will allow hydropower and forestry development that has been blocked by disputes between the indigenous people and the provincial government.

"This is an historic moment for the Crees," said Grand Chief Ted Moses. "We will build our communities, find and create employment opportunities for the Crees in the development of the territory and we will build our Nation."

"This is an agreement to implement Québec's obligations under section 28 of the [1975] James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement while at the same time it preserves and increases the Cree rights in the agreement. It is an agreement that vindicates the long Cree campaign since 1975 to have our rights respected," Chief Moses said.

The agreement includes cash payments to the Cree of C$24 million in 2002, C$46 million the following year, then C$70 million a year for 48 years. The Cree also get more control over their community and economy, more power over logging and more Hydro-Quebec jobs.

"We will receive from Quebec payments in order for us to properly carry out these responsibilities in accordance with priorities and means which we, the Cree, deem appropriate for our own development." said Chief Moses when the Agreement in Principle was signed last October.

In return, the Cree have promised to drop C$3.6 billion in environmental lawsuits against the government.

The Cree also agreed to accept hydropower installations along the Eastman River and Rupert River, subject to environmental approval.

The agreement will allow Hydro-Québec to build its planned C$3.8-billion Eastmain and Rupert hydroelectric projects, part of the controversial James Bay power development plan. The projects will generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity when they are completed in 10 years.

The Cree position concerning hydropower has changed since the 1990s when a Cree campaign managed to keep the province of Quebec from building the Great Whale River hydro-electric project as the second phase of its plan, first announced in 1971, to dam and divert almost every major river running into James and Hudson Bays.

That effort by the Cree included an eight million dollar lawsuit and an information campaign aimed at power customers in the New England.

  The traditional terrority of the James Bay Cree Nation is in boreal, subarctic Canada. It has been adversely affected by hydroelectric mega-projects involving river diversions and river basin re-engineering since the 1970s, according to the Cree submission to the World Commission on Dams in November 2000.

"We have been dispossessed, displaced and environmentally, culturally, economically and socially devastated by large hydro-development projects, initiated and built in our traditional lands by the state owned electricity corporations Hydro-Quebec and Manitoba Hydro respectively, against our wishes and without our consent," the Cree said.

The governments of Canada, Quebec and Manitoba "have benefited from over 20 years of multi-billion dollar revenues at our expense," the Cree said, and they have not "adequately mitigated, remediated or compensated us as peoples for the profound and ongoing injuries and losses we have suffered."

"Deprived of adequate lands and resources, we now endure mass poverty and unemployment, ill health including epidemics of infectious disease and suicide, and crises of hopelessness and despair," they said.

This new agreement offers hope for a new relationship between the province of Quebec and the Cree Nation, said Chief Moses.

The agreement settles forestry disputes between Quebec and the Cree. The Quebec forestry regime will apply in Northern Quebec, but major adaptations will be made to this regime to ensure the protection of the Cree traditional way of life.

  A joint Cree-Quebec Forestry Board will review forestry regulations and forestry plans for Cree territory and provide recommendations to conciliate forestry activities with the Cree traditional uses of the territory and the protection of the natural environment. "We will also be closely involved in all aspects of forestry planning and management through meaningful and results oriented consultation processes at the community level," Chief Moses said.

No other agreement entered into between the Crees and any government has been subjected to referendum processes involving the Cree Nation as a whole.

The whole process involved two tours of the communities by the Cree leaders during which the people debated the issues more than at any time in recent Cree history. At the end of this, the Cree leadership listened to the demands of the Cree people and sought political confirmation through referendum processes of the decision to proceed or not with this new agreement.

"A substantial portion of the Cree People have obviously supported and endorsed the position taken by the majority of their leaders in favor of the new agreement," Chief Moses said Sunday.

Chief Moses and Quebec Premier Bernard Landry are to meet Thursday for a formal signing.

Implementation of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement by the government of Canada is still subject to court proceedings.



Cree sign deal with Quebec
Oct 23, 2001
Quebec City

The Quebec government has reached an agreement-in-principle with the James Bay Cree on the development of the Eastmain-Rupert hydro-electric project, which could cost as much as $3.8 billion.

The agreement comes as a surprise as the two sides have been involved in legal battles over the project for more than 20 years.

Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses says it's no coincidence this agreement-in-principle comes after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

"That day, people throughout North America realized how small the world is and how important it is to resolve issues," Moses said.

The deal resolves 25 years of negotiations over how the Quebec government meets it obligations under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement.

The Cree will receive almost $150 million over the next three years, and then $70 million a year to compensate for hydro development, forestry and mining on their lands.

For Quebec, the plum is the agreement to allow the Eastmain-Rupert hydro project to go ahead. It would produce 1,200 megawats of electricity and create 8,000 construction jobs.

Cree leaders are committed to consult the people affected. Chief Robert Weistche of Waskaganish, says there's no guarantee that people who live along the river will say 'yes'.

"The ability of the river being diverted in the future worries me a lot, as a chief, and as a member of my community," Weistche says.

If the Cree leaders receive approval from their communities, Premier Bernard Landry and Grand Chief Moses plan to sign a formal agreement before the end of the year.

© Copyright CBC



$3.6-billion Cree-Quebec deal unraveling
Montreal Gazette

Monday, December 10, 2001

A historic Quebec-Cree deal announced with much fanfare in October has provoked a bitter debate among Crees, threatening to torpedo one of the biggest settlements with a First Nation in Canadian history.

The $3.6-billion deal, which includes a new 1,280-megawatt hydro-electric project on the Rupert and Eastmain rivers, has divided friends and families in the nine Cree communities of northern Quebec and provoked a backlash against the Cree leadership.

The deal's future is now uncertain after several high-profile Crees broke rank and came out against it.

"The land is part of creation. We don't have the right to sell it," said Matthew Mukash, deputy grand chief of the Crees.

Robert Weistche, chief of Waskaganish, surprised everyone with a letter last week saying: "I have little enthusiasm for going down in history as the Waskaganish chief who signed the death warrant for the Rupert River." 

Also last week, residents of Chisasibi, the largest Quebec Cree community, voted to turf out a chief who supports the deal and elect one who opposes it.

The firestorm in James Bay is in marked contrast to the smiling faces at the signing of the agreement in Quebec City on Oct. 23. Cree and Quebec officials hailed the 16-page deal as a breakthrough.

The Crees were to get at least $3.6 billion over 50 years for sorely needed jobs, housing and community infrastructure. 

In a first, the payments would be partially indexed to revenues from hydro-electricity, forestry and mining in Cree territory, which covers one-quarter of the province.

In exchange, Quebec would get to build a $3.8-billion hydro-electric project on the Rupert and Eastmain rivers that would create 8,000 jobs. The deal also opens the door to more mining and forestry.

Crees also have to drop $8 billion in lawsuits against Quebec over unfulfilled promises of the 1975 James Bay agreement. The treaty gave the green light to construction of the world's biggest dam.

The new deal would also end an acrimonious battle with Quebec over forestry, allowing the Crees to make recommendations - albeit non-binding ones - on how companies log on their territory.

Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees, said the agreement is a step toward self-government, transferring to Crees all of Quebec's obligations for economic and social development, including funding community centres, Cree businesses, trapping, tourism and culture.

Those gains are what justified the Crees' turnaround on dams, making the Rupert hydro project a difficult but acceptable sacrifice, said Namagoose, who was one of the leaders of the successful fight against the Great Whale dam project in the 1990s.

"The path of the future for native people is to give them the opportunity to exploit resources and share in that," Quebec Native Affairs Minister Guy Chevrette said in an interview. 

A final version of the deal is still being negotiated and needs to be approved by the Crees. Officials say they hope it will be signed in January. 

But the deal, negotiated in secrecy, stunned some Crees when it was announced. "I was in disbelief. It was the first time I had heard about these talks," said Abraham Rupert, the new chief of Chisasibi.

"Everything was done behind closed doors," said Roger Orr, a Cree small-business owner in Nemiscau, 1,000 kilometres north of Montreal. 

"We're shocked. We feel defeated by our own leaders."

A bitter debate has followed.

"This is politics at its darkest moment," said Bertie Wapachee, chairman of the Cree Health Board. "It's hurting friendships, it's hurting families. There are some painful discussions between two generations. You see it everywhere. It's heartbreaking."

Many Crees accuse their chiefs of betraying years of opposition to new dams and brushing aside those who question the agreement. 

"Only one side is being heard. If people speak out against it, you aren't a good Cree. That's my biggest fear, that it will be pushed through undemocratically," Wapachee said.

"People are saying they are not being heard. Those people who are opposed are simply brushed aside," said deputy grand chief Mukash, who is calling for an emergency meeting on the deal.

The deal represents a dramatic turnaround for the province's 13,000 Crees. They made a name for themselves in the 1990s with a dogged battle against the Great Whale hydro-electric project, which was eventually shelved.

Some Crees wonder if the new deal will force them to go along quietly if Quebec secedes. There are also big worries about the impacts on the traditional hunting way of life, still practiced by thousands of Crees.

"A lot of people are mad here - trappers, elders, young people," said Nemiscau trapper Freddy Jolly, who will see part of his family's ancestral hunting grounds flooded and another part downriver from a proposed dam dry up.

Why the Cree chiefs' change of heart on dams? One Cree official, who requested anonymity, said Quebec strong-armed the chiefs into accepting the mega-project, making the Rupert hydro-electric project a condition of settling longstanding Cree funding needs.

In an interview, Chevrette acknowledged there would have been no deal on community funding if Crees had not accepted new dams.

"We wanted a long-term agreement, but on condition we can develop the North," he said. "We didn't force them. We didn't scalp anybody."

Paul Dixon, a fur officer at the Cree trappers' office in Waswanipi, called that blackmail. "When people are desperate and hurt, others want to take advantage of them," he said, adding he was "disgusted" when told of Chevrette's reference to scalping.

Chiefs are expected to decide soon how Crees will give their final word on the deal, whether by referendum, community assembly or other mechanism.

The 1975 James Bay Agreement was approved by a combination of individual consent forms and band-council resolutions. The final agreement was ratified by a Cree general assembly.

It's not certain how the new deal will be approved, but Cree officials appear to be shying away from a referendum, arguing it might be too divisive.

"A referendum process may not necessarily be the best approach," said Abel Bosum, the head Cree negotiator with Quebec. "Because of the nature of the agreement - it's very complex - it's difficult for everybody to understand everything. There is a lot of information based on fear and playing on people's emotions."

Bosum argued that Cree chiefs have the authority to sign the final deal by themselves, without a vote.

He acknowledged Crees have questions about the deal, but was optimistic about its chances.

"This is an agreement that every other First Nation across Canada has dreamed of. No longer would Crees go begging to Quebec."

But some Crees say it would be undemocratic not to hold a referendum. 

"We do not have a democracy if we do not have a referendum," said Will Nicholls, editor of the Cree magazine the Nation. 

"What they are doing is the same thing as (Premier) Bernard Landry saying, 'You knew I was a separatist when you elected me,' and declaring independence without a referendum."

So far, it looks like the deal might be in trouble if put to a popular vote. The vast majority of Crees who have written letters to the Nation or phoned Cree radio call-in shows have come out against it. Moses met skeptical crowds and intense questioning during an initial tour of the Cree communities to explain the deal in October and November.

Dixon summed up the Crees' concerns: "It's the same guys we signed the deal with 25 years ago. They promised the traditional way of life would continue undisturbed. Today, the whole territory has been slated for development. 

"We're still squatters and beggars in our own land."

© Copyright 2001 Montreal Gazette



$3.6-billion deal with Quebec is solid: Cree chief
Montreal Gazette
Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses yesterday denied a $3.6-billion deal to develop northern power between the Quebec government and his people is starting to unravel in the face of local opposition.

But following reports of dissent among some Cree, it was revealed yesterday that a petition calling for a meeting to discuss the leadership of one pro-development Indian leader in the Cree community of Nemaska has picked up 35 names, enough to force the band council to call such a meeting.

"The people are not in favour and the leaders are still pushing," Lindy Moar, a Cree school administrator in Nemaska who is organizing the petition, said last night. "It seems they are not listening to the people. We're questioning whether we are well represented."

Moar's comments came following an extraordinary scene yesterday: a Cree leader, Moses, lunching and addressing Quebec electrical contractors, a group the Cree would never have mingled with in the past and who stand to earn millions in the project.

Moses was given a hero's welcome and a gift of a hunting knife from the president of the association, Michel Dubeau. Members praised Moses, describing him as a man of courage and vision for signing a deal with Premier Bernard Landry last October to develop the Eastmain and Rupert Rivers.

Heaps Praise on Landry

Actualité Magazine this week lists Moses among its "Personalities of the Year" in Quebec. The title of the accompanying article is "Le Beau Risque de Ted Moses," a play on an expression former premier René Lévesque used to describe an ultimate round of constitutional talks even if there had been mistrust in the past.

In his speech, titled a New Relationship with Quebec, Moses heaped praise on Landry, noting he is the first Canadian political leader to include the Cree in its plans rather than just pay them off and make them into "permanent dependents," or treat them as "inferiors."

"Quebec acknowledged our existence in a way that no other government in Canada, federal or provincial, has ever done with aboriginal people," Moses said. "Premier Landry is the first government leader to boldly step into this future. It is for this reason that I very seriously have said that his approach is visionary."

Behind the scenes, Cree and government lawyers continue to work on the final agreement of the deal, signed Oct. 23. Moses dodged questions on exactly how he plans to consult his population except to say an announcement will be made this week, possibly Thursday. A referendum has not been ruled out, but Moses said he has spent much of the past two months visiting all the Cree communities to sell the deal.

Speculation Not Borne Out

"I can only say this: speculation in the Montreal Gazette and elsewhere that the deal is unraveling is not borne out when you meet the Cree people," Moses said. "Sure, there is criticism and suspicion. Why should this be surprising? And why in any society should this democratic debate be interpreted as a sign of failure?"

At a press conference later, Moses smoothly downplayed the friction, adding, "My feeling is, even though we have not made a final decision, that people are favourable. There is just a small group of people trying to make a lot of noise."

Moses said he does not buy reports that the leader in Nemaska, George Wapachee, could be impeached by his people. Another chief who left left his band did so because the people wanted a change, he said.

Moses said people can't expect to only reap the benefits of the project and not shoulder the disadvantages. Steven Bearskin, president of Cree construction, said his firm would benefit from $290 million in contracts if the deal went through.

© Copyright 2001 Montreal Gazette



Cree band chiefs say hydro deal likely within week
Wed Dec 19, 2001

MONTREAL - Leaders from Cree communities in northern Quebec are meeting in Montreal to hammer out the fine print of a multi-billion dollar hydro development project.

Quebec wants to build hydro-electric river dams on Cree land. In exchange for rights to use the land, the provincial government will offer billions of dollars to the bands to improve their living conditions.

Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses made a luncheon speech to members of the Quebec Electrical Industry Association Tuesday, as Cree villages debate whether or not to accept a deal.

Moses was in Montreal to promote a deal which would dam two major rivers on Cree territory in exchange for billions in development money.

Steven Bearskin is the president of Cree Construction. He says if the deal goes through his company could win more than a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts.

But Bearskin admits industrial development is a sensitive topic among the Cree. "We live in two worlds right now. The native communities, not just the Cree, but every other native community. We're in a native world, but we also have to live and work with a white man's world."

Since Quebec Premier Bernard Landry and Moses announced the proposed deal, the debate in northern Quebec has swelled.

Moses says support for development is strong. "I've been to the Cree communities, I've met with the Cree trappers, I've met with the people that will be affected by flooding, by river diversion. People are favourable."

Moses says most Cree want the money that would flood in from the Quebec government for community development.

However, one local chief who supported Moses has been ousted and replaced by an anti-damming band councillor. Another chief faces impeachment by his community for his support of the damming project.

School administrator Lindy Moore says most of the people he's spoken to in his Cree community of Namiska are opposed to the development.

"Fundamentally this transaction is a simple purchase of Cree rights for a fixed sum of money. We were told that we're not selling rights here," said Moore.

He's launched a petition to expel his council chief, who supports the hydro agreement. Moore also accused the chief and the grand council of withholding information from the band.

"There was only one consultation meeting in my community. There's no information coming out from the chief and council, or from the grand council," said Moore.

But Moses says it's only a small group of people "trying to make a lot of noise." He says he's been honest with Cree communities.

"In any question you can always question the process. For us, it's the results that matter," said Moses.

Despite apparent division Moses says band chiefs are meeting in Montreal and should have a final proposal ready by the end of the week.

© Copyright CBC


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