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SIGNATURE OF AN AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE BETWEEN THE GRAND COUNCIL OF THE CREES AND THE QUÉBEC GOVERNMENT

Québec, October 23, 2001 -The Prime Minister of Québec, Mr. Bernard Landry, and the Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, Mr. Ted Moses, proceeded this morning in the National Assembly with the signing of an historic agreement in principle. The agreement is based on their common willingness to settle the differences between Québec and the Crees, through a new framework, based on dialogue, to advance the development of Northern Québec and to ensure increased management by the Crees over their own development.

On this occasion they were accompanied by the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr. Guy Chevrette, the Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Jacques Brassard, the MNA for Ungava, Mr. Michel Létourneau, as well as the Chiefs of nine Cree communities and the directors of the main Cree organizations.

"This is a new nation-to-nation relationship, a new beginning that will ensure better political, social and economic relations between Québec and the Crees. Still based on the commitments that were contracted 26 years ago at the signing of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, our relationship will be characterized by trust, cooperation, partnership and mutual respect", stated the Prime Minister.

In the same spirit, the Grand Chief also mentioned that: "By this Agreement, a new relationship will be established between Québec and the Crees. This relationship will be built on mutual trust and respect. Some may not believe this relationship to be possible. We will prove them wrong. As the Grand Chief of the Crees, I am fully committed to this new relationship and I know that the Cree leadership stands united behind me on this issue".

A New relationship based on dialogue

In the spirit of a renewed relationship between Québec and the Cree, they agreed to withdraw all lawsuits related to Québec's application of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA). This refers notably to the cases of Mario Lord and Coon Come I and II, excepting allegations regarding health, justice and police services, which in some instances involve the federal government and which will be suspended for a period of three years so that a negotiated settlement may be reached by the Parties. In addition, the Cree will undertake to not bring any more lawsuits against Québec regarding the latter's application of the JBNQA.

Moreover, in a spirit of trust and partnership, Québec and the Cree undertake to form a permanent liaison committee, that will be responsible for the harmonious implementation and effective follow-up of the final agreement as well as for the resolution of other issues related to the application of the JBNQA. Generally speaking, the Parties agree to strive to avoid recourse under the judicial process or under other forums to settle their disputes and to this end they agree to establish a dispute resolution mechanism.

Economic and community development of the Crees

The agreement stipulates that as of April 1st, 2002, Québec's commitments under the JBNQA related to economic and community development of the Crees will be undertaken by the Crees out of the global funding provided for under the agreement. Québec's undertakings will be considered by the Crees as completed for the duration of the agreement. Consequently, Québec will pay the Crees a sum of $23 million dollars in 2002-2003 and $46 million dollars in 2003-2004. Starting in 2004-2005, the contribution will reach $70 million dollars and will then be indexed, under a formula that will reflect the progress of activity in the James Bay territory in the sectors of hydro-electricity, forestry and mining.

Moreover the agreement establishes the conditions which will enable the finalization of the March 27 1998 Implementation Agreement (1998 M.O.U.) as well as the land transfers between Mistissini and Oujé-Bougoumou.

Lastly, Québec will proceed with the creation of a Cree Development Corporation, governed by a Board of Directors, the majority of whom will be appointed by the Crees and which will be dedicated to economic and community development of the Crees. It will be one of the major tools to help the Crees become active partners with Québec for the development of James Bay.

"The new approach is based on the development and achievement of a greater autonomy for the Cree nation, in respect for their culture and lifestyle. The Crees will henceforth have the means of creating jobs, they so much need in order to ensure a better future for their young people and to participate in the development of the regions of Nord-du-Québec, especially through the creation of partnerships with people in the James Bay region", stated Minister Chevrette.

Forestry

In the forestry sector, the agreement provides for the implementation of rules and procedures that are aimed at the harmonization of forestry activities with traditional Cree lifestyles and a greater integration of sustainable development concerns. These provisions fall under the framework of principles of the Québec forestry program. It also includes measures for access to forest resources, with the goal of capacity building so that the Crees will be able to ensure their own economic development.

The agreement calls for the creation of a Cree - Québec Council on Forestry the function of which will be to ensure follow-up for the components in the agreement related to forestry. Such a Council will allow for closer consultation with the Crees prior to the development and exploitation of forestry resources. At the level of the Cree communities concerned, joint working groups, made up of representatives of the Department of Natural Resources, will be assigned the mandate to monitor implementation of the forestry clauses in the agreement.

"This agreement will ensure the harmonious and sustainable development of the natural resources of James Bay and will also help to establish a climate of trust and confidence, which is essential for investments and job creation, that benefit not only the Crees and the Jamesian population, but also the entire community of Québec", stated Minister Brassard.

Eastmain and Rupert hydro-electric projects

Through this agreement, the Cree consent to the development of the Eastmain hydro-electric project and the Rupert River diversion project. These are strategic projects for Québec. They represent a $3.8 billion dollar investment and will increase Québec's hydro production by 1 200 MW, and will also help to create job opportunity representing 8 000 person-year during the six years-and-a-half of the construction phase of the project. These projects will be submitted to the environmental and social assessment process stipulated in the JBNQA. Among others, environmental studies will begin shortly after the signature of the final agreement.

Terms of implementation

An exchange table will be created for the purposes of drafting a final agreement by the end of 2001, for a term of 50 years, which, among others, will result in the drafting of a complementary agreement to ensure that the proper links are created between this agreement and the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement.

"We view this agreement and the final agreement to be signed by the end of December, as important steps forward that will allow us to begin to develop our communities and to become players in the development of Québec. Most important for us will be the positive impact that this agreement will have in improving the prospects for our youth and children in the future", stated the Grand Chief.

"The signing of this agreement marks the inauguration of a new relationship, which is open and imbued with respect for the common values and interests between the Cree and Québec nations. It reinforces the Cree capacity to take charge of their own development and it focuses on the joint willingness to pursue the harmonious development of Northern Québec, in respect of our cultural heritage and in a spirit of growing modernization", concluded the Prime Minister.

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SOURCES :


Hubert Bolduc
Attaché de presse
Cabinet du premier ministre
(418) 643-5321
Louise Accolas
Attachée de presse
Minister Brassard's Office
(418) 643-7295
Sylvie Lemieux
Attachée de presse
Minister Chevrette's Office
(418) 643-6980
Signature gouvernementale
Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
905, avenue Honoré-Mercier, 1er étage - Québec (Qc)  G1R 5M6 - 418 643-3166
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