Battle for the Rupert 

 

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  INDEPTH:

    The Rupert River

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Cree Nation

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Diversion

  DOCUMENT:  

   Peace of the Brave (PDF) 

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  WEBSITES:  

Grand Council of the Cree

Rupert Reverence

January 14, 2003

James and Hudson bays seen from space

  SATELLITE PHOTO: January 13 (74K)

  SATELLITE PHOTO: December 16 (278K) 

December 16, 2002

Environmental assessment studies begun

Background studies have begun for the upcoming environmental assessments on EM-1A dam and the Rupert River diversion. 

Although the environmental assessments on both projects are not officially underway, Quebec's Ministry of Environment and Hydro Quebec have both begun research, using in-house staff and contracting outside researchers. 

EM-1A is a second hydro-electric dam planned for the Eastmain River, near EM-1 — preliminary construction work has already begun on EM-1. The EM-1 facility had assessment work done in the early 1990s and will not be part of the upcoming environmental assessments.

November 26, 2002

Grand chief celebrates agreement in Europe

Ted Moses, grand chief of the Crees, was recently in Europe with Quebec's native affairs minister celebrating the Peace of the Brave. But Moses wasn't celebrating the dams and diversions, but the model he believes the agreement can be for other native peoples. 

"The status quo of containment on reserves while the surrounding resources are exploited without benefit to its rightful owners cannot continue," says executive director Bill Namagoose of the Grand Council of the Crees. "The federal government then questions whether the northern reserves are economically viable."

Full text of Moses speech in London:

Thank you for this opportunity to present important recent developments in Quebec in the relations between aboriginal peoples and the state. As Grand Chief I represent the nine Cree communities occupying the area of Quebec draining into James Bay and southern Hudson Bay.

On February 7, 2002 , a breakthrough occurred between the James Bay Crees and the Government of Quebec.  In the Cree community of Waskaganish, Crees from all nine communities assembled to witness the signature by Quebec Premier Bernard Landry and myself, of the "Agreement to Establish a New Relationship between the Government of Quebec and the Crees." We reached an understanding and a level of mutual respect and recognition that I believe could well be a model approach useful for aboriginal rights around the world. We have fought long and hard for this and I feel that the Government of Quebec has finally heard and understood our people, the Cree Nation.

Our new agreement recognizes that the Crees are entitled to share meaningfully with Quebec in the benefits from natural resources that accrue within the entire traditional territory of the Cree Nation, an area a little larger than Italy. The Agreement contains the following elements:

Relations between the Quebec Nation and the Cree Nation based on cooperation, partnership and mutual respect;
In the future, industrial development in our traditional lands must be compatible with our way of life and must be sustainable;
A new Cree-Quebec forestry board will review all company cutting plans and oversee Cree hunter-company consultations;
A Cree annual commercial allotment of 350,000 cubic metres of harvestable wood and guaranteed priority for jobs and contracts in the forestry industry;
Cancellation of the 6,500 square kilometre, 8,000 megawatt Nottaway-Broadback-Rupert Project hydroelectric project.
Cree consent to the construction of the 1,200 megawatt EM-1 Project, which incidentally, is being constructed on my family’s hunting lands and to the EM-1A/Rupert Diversion Project, an addition to the EM-1 Project and causing an additional 350 square kilometres of flooding.
Hydro Quebec agrees to train and hire Crees for permanent technical jobs at the dams.
On the new projects, over $800 million of contracts are to set aside for Cree companies and a fund of $24 million to combat the impact of mercury contamination is set up; 
Crees will implement Quebec’s 1975 treaty commitments to Cree economic and community development for 50 years and Quebec will make an annual payment of $70 million for this. This will increase annually to reflect the growth in the total value of production in the forestry, hydroelectricity and mining sectors.
A permanent high-level liaison committee and a mediation process will deal with future implementation.
Cree court actions against Quebec are withdrawn and disputes in relation to heath are being settled.

This is “La Paix des Braves”, as it has come to be known. It is important to understand the essential nature of the new paradigm that it contains.

We believe that this new relationship goes a long way to reversing the tradition of extinguishing the rights of Indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands in order to make way for colonial resource exploitation. In 1999 this policy in Canada was condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee and Canada has given it commitments that it will end the practice of extinguishment. In spite of this, Canada continues, as we speak, to demand extinguishment, increasingly in the form of a policy that freezes aboriginal rights and denies future recognition of rights as determined by constitutional change or by the Canadian or International Courts and denies aboriginal access to the courts to assert these rights.

Our new relationship with Quebec is neither based on extinguishment nor the conversion of our rights. It is an acceptance and recognition by Quebec of our role in the economic and social and cultural existence of Quebec. Moreover, this new relationship demonstrates that the right to self-determination can be compatible with the national interest of aboriginal peoples and the interests of the state.

Aboriginal Peoples must exert their right to benefit from the development of the resources from the whole extent of their traditional territories. To do this they must also continue to reinvent themselves to go beyond the stereotypes that curiously reinforce their alienation from their own lands, by proposing that they cannot be the developers of the land but can only ever be hunters or gatherers. It is this notion that condemns aboriginal peoples to lives of poverty and forced assimilation. As Aboriginal Peoples we must recognize ourselves as pursuing valid and meaningful careers not only in traditional pursuits but also outside of the forest. One is not any more or less Cree because of what one does for a living, any more than one loses one’s European or Canadian identity by being an astronaut, a woodsman, a mechanic or a social worker.

I believe as Premier Landry of Quebec believes, that the national interests of the Cree Nation are not incompatible with those of Quebec nor with those of Canada. I believe that if the Cree nation prospers then Quebec and Canada will prosper. Aboriginal Peoples in Canada should and must have good housing, education, jobs, health and a right to contribute to and share in Canada’s future economic, cultural and political well-being, at the same level that most other Canadians take for granted. More than this however, we must have a place of pride in Canada , not as the poor relatives without means, but as partners with recognized and real interests in the development of our ancestral lands.

Quebec, with its historic interests in its language and culture, has more common ground with the Crees than has Canada, and has understood the problem and accepted the challenge of meaningfully addressing it. The rights-based approach is just and sound and I know that it will bring about change for the better. Canada has yet to take up our invitation to recognize this fact and to fundamentally change its policy of extinguishment for a policy of inclusion and cooperation.  Quebec’s new policy puts it at the forefront in the recognition of aboriginal rights and respect for international human rights law in this regard.

November 18, 2002

CBC TV specials on Rupert on Maamuitaau show

CBC: Sunday, November 24, 5:30 a.m. ET

APTN:* Monday, November 25, 1:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. ET

            Monday, December 2, 1:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. ET  

* Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

October 21, 2002

Rupert Reverence launches website

   Rupert Reverence (bilingual)

October 9, 2002

Radio Netherlands special reports

Excellent coverage of the Rupert battle and Cree struggles since the James Bay Project began.

   The Battle for the Rupert (English)

   The Cree: Facing the Modern World (English)

October 4, 2002

Grand chief election about more than the Rupert

August's election for grand chief of the Crees was the narrowest in Cree history, the victor taking it by 34 votes. It garnered an unusual amount of media coverage, which attributed the closeness of the election to opposition to the Peace of the Brave — the recent Cree-Quebec agreement that gave Cree permission to the diversion of the Rupert River. There were harsher realities at play. 

The Cree Nation was not born out of choice, but out of defense against a world that was taking its land and resources. Where other countries have had over a century to adjust to the industrial age, the Crees have had little more than 25 years.  

With money it has received since 1975 for hydro-electric development, it shrewdly, but hastily, went to work building a new society, providing homes and education for a people who were moving from the land to the village. Bureaucracies, the primary tool for the delivery of government services, proliferated — school boards, health boards, trapper compensation agencies, agencies to deal with mercury poisoning, boards to deal with money from smaller agreements that were later made and on and on — taking over modern functions where there were no Cree traditions. 

But it was not a perfect transition. "We have bureaucracies for everything. They've been gathering power," says Will Nicholls, editor of The Nation and a candidate in the election for deputy grand chief. "We have traditional ways of doing things, and they were bound to come into conflict." 

Five months before the election, the Peace of the Brave agreement was signed with Quebec. It was the most significant agreement the Crees had made since the first agreement, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975. In the first, the Crees surrendered to the inevitable James Bay Project, which opened their territory to the outside world like a merciless hurricane. Unlike the first, the Peace of the Brave was undertaken in secret by Cree leaders and bureaucrats. Today's Crees are much more sophisticated than in 1975.This new deal was uneasily ratified by a referendum that was accompanied by criticism over the secrecy and the haste to sign.  

The position of grand chief had been created in 1974 when the Crees politically united into a single nation. Elections had always been quiet and orderly, in keeping with tradition. They were about personalities, not about issues. Who was fit to lead. The candidates would make a personal bio available through community offices and the people would vote. Ted Moses, who had led the secret negotiations, and only the third person to hold the grand chief's position, ran again. 

The only contender was Matthew Mukash, a veteran of the Great Whale campaign, former deputy grand chief under Ted Moses, former chief of Whapmagoostui Nation and one of the most well known names in Eeyou Istchee, the Cree Nation. Matthew Mukash had campaigned all over the world to save the Great Whale River that runs through his community. He had been a leader in the only battle the Cree had ever won. 

He did not like the new deal because he didn't understand its implications for the Crees. But more importantly, he didn't like the secrecy. "Crees tend to do everything in the open," Mukash says. He was fighting for traditions. 

The street fighter dusted off his arsenal and went about breaking with tradition. He adopted a platform, Unity through Empowerment, printed up pamphlets and campaigned in the communities, talked to the media, brought his son out to help. The aggressiveness shook up the unprepared incumbent, and he nearly lost the election. Will future Cree elections ever be the same? 

Yes, the election questioned the Rupert diversion and the details of the agreement. But you can't leave it there. It was a struggle between past and present, traditions and 'southern" ways, issues and personalities, the people and bureaucracies. You can't expect to build and maintain a nation without tough political debates. Look at the history of the world's established democracies. Let's accept the election as another  rite of passage for the Crees.

September 6, 2002

Peace of the Brave, get it right

The February agreement between the Crees and Quebec, which covered a large number of governance issues as well as the Rupert River diversion, has been named the "Peace of the Brave" by the Crees and Quebec. It comes from the French expression "Paix des Braves," referring to a peace between two bitter enemies who have not defeated each other, but who have the courage to come together.

The expression has appeared in English as "Peace of the Braves." But in English "braves" has an undertone of Indian "war braves" and is offensive to many aboriginals.

 

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