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Cree Response Highlights Problems with Jobs Program and Environmental Assessment Report

by admin ~ December 30th, 2006

The Grand Council of the Crees, Eeyou Istchee, cites concerns over permit process for EM 1-A Rupert River Diversion Project. The environmental assessment report was submitted in early December to little public comment or fanfare, and quickly approved by Quebec and Federal governments. The CBC reports that federal Labour Minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, advised Harper to approve the deal, so that construction could begin this winter when heavy equipment could be brought in over frozen ground. The Cree have stated they want more time to review the full COMEX Report, and submit questions and comments. The majority of Cree testifying at public hearings opposed the diversion, and three communities have recently voted down the development deal in local referenda. “Clément Tremblay, chair of the [COMEX] panel, said the committee recommended the project, but attached almost 100 conditions that must be met” (CBC).

Canada Violates Conditions of the EM1A-Rupert Diversion Permit

MONTREAL, Dec. 21 – “After six years of funding the Territorial Programs that provided training for Crees to be employed in hydroelectric development, Canada has unilaterally pulled the plug on the program. Prime Minister Harper has announced the project approval but has been silent on the reinstatement of the employment programs. We want this program reinstated along with the administrative funding for the delivery of programs, which are treaty obligations set out in our 1975 treaty with Canada and Quebec,” stated Grand Chief Matthew Mukash. “We have a large youth population who need employment and Canada is undermining our ability to benefit from the jobs to be created by the EM1A-Rupert Diversion Project, he continued.”

The Federal Commission that provided the conditions under which the EM1A-Rupert Diversion Project was to be approved included reinstatement of the Territorial Program as one of the important conditions. The Provincial Report on the project deplored the cutting of this highly successful program which has to date brought over 600 Crees into employment.

For further information: Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, (514) 207-5992; Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff, (514) 207-6184.>>

For more on the Rupert River diversion and the original “Paix des Braves” agreement, you can listen to a 2002 Radio Netherlands report by Michele Ernsting, titled “Battle for the Rupert” (29:00 min). The 2002 “Paix des Braves” agreement covers many areas: forestry, hydroelectric development, mining, community development, policing, and provides for a conflict resolution process for future claims. With the promise of decision making, revenue sharing, better partnerships with stakeholders, and expanded regional authority over lands and resources, many looked to the agreement as a benchmark for local control and a future for the Cree in their traditional lands. But it has been the contentious issue of EM 1-A, or the Rupert River diversion, that has bitterly divided the community.

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