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Québec City, December 14, 2000 - Earlier today, following on from recent meetings between Québec Premier Lucien Bouchard and the Grand Chief of the Council of the Crees, Ted Moses, Québec's Minister of Natural Resources and Minister for Native Affairs revealed the proposal submitted by the government to the Cree negotiators.

Mr. Brassard confirmed that the draft Agreement on Forestry is based on the main principles of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement and on the basic elements of the Forest Act.  ""n line with the spirit of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, the agreement-in-principle would enable us to establish the fact that Québec needs to use all the resources of its territory for the benefit of its population while recognizing the needs of the Native communities whose cultures and lifestyles are different. In addition, we propose to continue and accentuate implementation of the main principles of the forest system, including participation by the various communities, as well as harmonization and multiple use of Québec's forest heritage.  I believe we have demonstrated flexibility, in that we have made changes that meet the expectations of the Cree communities," he said.

The draft agreement published today provides, among other things, for the creation of a James Bay forestry authority led by a board of directors composed of an equal number of Cree and Québec representatives.  The President of the new authority will be appointed by the Minister after formal consultations with the Cree.  The authority's mandate will be to ensure that the Cree play an active role in forest management.  Québec undertakes to provide sufficient funding.
To facilitate the activities of the Cree trappers and mitigate some of the inconveniences caused by forest operations, the agreement would allow for the creation of an Indoho Trappers Fund for a period of ten years.  The State and the forest industry would pay a total of $2 million per year into the Fund for the first five years.  The amount would then be adjusted in subsequent years to reflect harvesting levels.

The government has also offered, not later than five years after signature of the final agreement, to make available five percent (5%) of the allowable annual cut (around 350,000 cubic metres), mainly in the form of "forest management agreements".  Measures have also been proposed to increase the percentage of forestry sector jobs offered to the Cree, and to provide adequate training for the Cree workforce.

The draft agreement without prejudice would also lead to the creation of an economic development fund with an annual budget of $5.4 million for the first five years (adjusted subsequently to reflect harvesting levels).  The new fund would allow the Cree community to become more involved in forest management activities, and eventually in the wood processing industry.  Another fund, this time for social development, would receive a one-time payment of $10 million from the government, and would be used by the Cree communities to set up programs in response to specific needs.

"Active participation by the Cree communities, access to the forest resource and to a new pool of jobs, respect for traditional activities and the potential for workforce training appear to me to be concrete steps and concrete answers to the legitimate needs expressed by the Cree representatives. The goal is clear: to involve our two communities in action.  Similar measures, promoting Native entrepreneurship in the mining sector, have already produced some very good results.  The same should be true of the development measures we are proposing today," said Minister Brassard.

The Minister also confirmed that his department may proceed immediately with the identification and implementation of additional measures to harmonize the activities of forest companies with those of the Cree trappers, without waiting for the new forestry authority to be created.  "To be operational quickly, one of the components of the agreement involves the creation of a joint committee that will be responsible for reviewing forest protection standards relating, for example, to the distribution of cutting areas, protection for lakes and watercourses, wildlife habitats and sites of interest identified by the Cree, and for proposing any improvements it considers necessary in the short and medium terms."

The government's proposal specifically concerning the forest resource would involve the industry, the ministère des Ressources naturelles and Emploi-Québec.  Its cost is estimated at more than $50 million for the next five years.  According to Mr. Brassard, Québec's offer, made without prejudice, provides clear evidence of the Québec government's willingness to move beyond its obligations under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement.

In conclusion, Minister Jacques Brassard said: "The main goal of the draft agreement is to create a climate of trust.  It will enable Québec to seize all its new economic development opportunities while improving the conditions for coexistence between the different forest users.  The Québec government is also willing to include some aspects of its draft agreement on forestry in a Complementary Agreement to the JBNQA.  What we are in fact proposing is a partnership approach involving two nations, a formula that supports the legitimate development of the Cree nation in the longer term, and that obviously recognizes its specific needs.  We have always said it was better to find effective solutions to problems rather than resorting to court action.  The draft agreement is part of this perspective."

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Source: Pour information:
Louise B. Accolas
Press Officer
(418) 643-7295
Maurice Carrier
Direction des communications
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