MONTREAL, QUEBEC (July 16, 2007) - Canada’s New Government and the Grand Council of the Crees today announced that they have reached an agreement which aims to put an end to years of controversy over Canada’s obligations under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA).
Originally signed in 1975, the JBNQA was Canada's first modern treaty. It dealt with land and other issues dating back to the late 1800s. However, Canada and the Crees of Eeyou Istchee held different views on how to best implement the JBNQA. After years of litigation, the negotiators for the Government of Canada and the Grand Council of the Crees signed a Statement of Intention in August 2004 to begin an out-of-court process demonstrating a mutual commitment to settling issues through meaningful discussion rather than through the courts.
Today’s agreement, entitled an Agreement Concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, includes a proposed financial package of $1.4 billion over a number of years and would clarify andfacilitate the implementation of Canada’s obligations under the JBNQA going forward. The agreement seeks to resolve disputes related to the implementation of the JBNQA outstanding over the last 30 years, and secures mutual agreement between Canada and the Crees on obligations for the next 20 years (beginning when the new agreement comes into force) with a process to extend that initial timeframe.
“This agreement between Canada and the Grand Council of the Crees closes a chapter on the disputes of the past and turns the page to a new, mutually respectful future,” stated the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on behalf of the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. “By working in partnership, through meaningful discussions, we have found solutions which can provide clarity and economic opportunity for the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and certainty for all Canadians.”
“This Agreement allows us to work with Canada and Quebec to develop a new form of regional government unique in Canada. I acknowledge the present and former leadership of the Cree Nation, whose wisdom has allowed us to come to this Agreement and to move forward in developing our communities and in protecting our interests as an Indigenous Nation on our lands, Eeyou Istchee,” stated Grand Chief Matthew Mukash.
If ratified, the Agreement would put an end to litigation regarding the implementation of federal obligations of the JBNQA. Both parties are required to ratify the Agreement before it can be implemented. The Grand Council of the Crees will submit the Agreement to a referendum in all Cree communities during the next few months. The Government of Canada also has to proceed through its ratification process before the Agreement comes into force.
Following ratification, the Crees of Quebec would assume federal responsibilities primarily in the areas of administration of justice and economic and social development.
The ratification of the agreement would also allow the Grand Council of the Crees and the Government of Canada to enter into a second phase of negotiations to address the modernization of the Crees’ governance regime.
This new relationship will provide a context of mutual rights and responsibilities that will ensure benefits for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.