Cree-Naskapi Commission
1996 Report 1996 Report Rapport 1996
Commission Crie-Naskapie


1996 Report
Table of Contents

  Chairman’s Message
Letter to the Minister
Chapter  1  :The Partners
Chapter  2  :Self-Government and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act
Chapter  3  :Outstanding Issues
Chapter  4  :Territorial Resource Management
Chapter  5  :Upgrading the Cree and Naskapi Government Arrangements
Chapter  6  :Dispute Resolution and Mediation
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It has been my great honour and privilege to serve as Chairman of the Cree-Naskapi Commission over the past ten years. Since 1988, I have also had the pleasure of acting as a mediator. As a result, my work, which at first took up only a few hours a month, now takes up most of my time.

I wish to thank the Director General of the Commission, Brian Shawana, and our staff, Micheline Ayotte, Gloria Dedam and Nicole Cheechoo, for their outstanding work and their enthusiasm.

I also thank the Honourable Ron Irwin and his special assistant, Brad Morse, for being so courteous and handling matters so efficiently. Gordon Shanks, Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has also done brilliant work. The Grand Council of the Crees has greatly facilitated my task. Grand Chief, Matthew Coon Come, the Executive Director of the Grand Council, Bill Namagoose, consultants Brian Craik and Norman Hawkins, and lawyer William S. Grodinsky have greatly contributed to the resolution of many problems.

The Chief of the Naskapis, George Shecanapish, and his special advisors, Paul Wilkinson and Robin Pratt, have offered me unending support over the past ten years. Jean-Francois Neault, of the Quebec Regional Office of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and his assistants were invaluable in easing the tension during some of the negotiations.

I am also most grateful to the Honourable Lawrence A. Poitras and the Honourable Lyse Lemieux, my superiors at the Court, for their utmost collaboration when there were urgent matters to be resolved at the Commission. To the Honourable Claire Barrette-Joncas, who is responsible for the Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court, and to my colleagues at the Chamber a special thanks for their support, which has made my life easier at both the Court and the Commission.

Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to my friend and colleague, Robert Kanatewat, for his invaluable advice as elder and leader.

This report goes off the beaten path and identifies the problems to be resolved over the coming years. The federal government, the Government of Quebec, Hydro-Quebec, the Crees, the Naskapis, and the Cree-Naskapi Commission can avoid costly litigation if they decide to work together to resolve the outstanding issues related to all the agreements.

The next few years will no doubt be very eventful, and I am prepared to continue this demanding, but exciting and fulfilling, task.


Cree-Naskapi Commission
La Commission Crie-Naskapie
Ottawa, Ontario

September 20,1996
The Honourable Ron Irwin, P.C., M.P.Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Irwin:

We respectfully submit our fifth biennial report on the implementation of the James Bay Cree and Naskapi self-government under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. In accordance with section 171. (1) of the Act, we present the report in four languages: English, French, Cree and Naskapi.

The 1996 Report of the Cree-Naskapi Commission is primarily the product of submissions of the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) representing the Cree communities and the Naskapi Band.

We hope that you and your fellow MP's will use this report to assist the Crees and the Naskapi self-government under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.

Yours respectfully,

The Honourable Justice Rejean F. Paul

Capital Square Bldg.
222 Queen Street, Suite 305
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5V9

Tel. : (613) 234-4288
FAX : (613) 234-8102

The Preface

In 1984, the federal government passed the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, the self-government legislation that has taken today's 12,000 Cree and Naskapi outside the Indian Act, marking a break with federal policies rooted in nineteenth-century beliefs and practices. The Cree-Naskapi Commission was established under the Act to assist in, and report on, its implementation.

The Commission began its work in 1986 and, while we have encountered impediments, we have seen both steady and dramatic progress in the eight Cree governments and one Naskapi government originally named in the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. We are delighted that another Cree government (Ouje-Bougoumou) will soon be formally included in the Act, and we have been able to help secure a permanent home for its people.

We have been fortunate to see firsthand the contemporary form of Cree and Naskapi governments take charge of their affairs. There is no one list of achievements, but the previous Cree-Naskapi Commission reports to Parliament, the 1994 annual report on the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement produced by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the Premier of Quebec's opening address upon the tabling of funding for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, on April 25, 1995, highlight many of them.

We have learned a lot about the intricacies of self-government in a modern federation. For one thing, we must take great care to ensure harmony in the relations and efforts of the federal and Aboriginal governments. When there is harmony , a great deal is achieved. The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act is a proven source of authority that can help preserve and promote a way of life and resolve some disputes. In this report we examine new and outstanding issues raised in two separate submissions -- one from the Naskapi and the other from the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) on behalf of the nine Cree governments.

We dedicate this tenth -- anniversary report to the Cree and Naskapi peoples and to improved relations between Canada and Aboriginal peoples.

Chapter 1
The Partners

On this tenth anniversary of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, it is important to highlight the roots of its legal mandate and comment on its future. We must also re-examine the different roles and responsibilities of the federal, provincial, Cree and Naskapi governments that were involved in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.

Cree-Naskapi Commission

The Cree-Naskapi Commission is an independent, non-governmental and non-political body established in 1984 under Part XII of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The Commission began its work in 1986. Its primary role is to monitor the implementation of the Act, and its duties, stipulated in Section 165 of the Act are:

  • To prepare a report every two years on the overall implementation of the Act. The report is prepared by consulting with the bands and the federal government on the successes and problems encountered in implementing and complying with the Act. The report is to be delivered to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who is then required to table it in Parliament.
  • To receive and investigate specific complaints or grievances from affected bands, groups or individuals, or from the federal government regarding the implementation and application of the Act, and to prepare reports and recommendations on the matters investigated.

The Cree and Naskapi peoples negotiated this important legislation under the terms and conditions of the JBNQA and the NEQA. It was hoped that these agreements would eventually establish effective self-government status for the communities.

Given the Cree-Naskapi Commission's reputation for neutrality and integrity, the parties concerned have occasionally assigned it the additional role of mediator, one not originally foreseen in the Act. In this capacity, the Commission fosters discussion and encourages the resolution of problems encountered by the federal and Cree governments. This relatively new role was requested by the parties in 1988 and has proven effective for resolving long-outstanding issues. The Naskapi government has also requested the Commission’s intervention. It is with considerable pride that the Commission states that a satisfactory conclusion was reached in most cases brought before it.

In its 1991 report, the Commission noted that a Commission of Inquiry had conducted a thorough review of its legal mandate in accordance with Subsections 172(1) and (2) of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. However, in its 1994 report, the Commission indicated that no progress had been made in relation to the findings and recommendations contained in the report produced by the Commission of Inquiry.

If we analyze the implementation of the JBNQA and the NEQA, we cannot but notice that many provisions, promises and obligations remain unfulfilled. Taking into account that the JBNQA was signed on November 11, 1975, we find it unconscionable, in light of the Sioui1 decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990, that all levels of the provincial and federal governments have ignored their commitments. It seems that the governments are only making a slight effort to resolve this accumulation of outstanding issues. The First Nations people are patient people, but even patient people are breaking away from this tradition and unfortunately edging towards confrontation and litigation to resolve issues. The Cree-Naskapi Commission feels that the lack of alacrity of the governments can only add to the negative feelings and the frustration of the Cree and Naskapi peoples.

Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) and the Naskapi People

The Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) (GCCQ), established in 1974, is the political voice of the James Bay Crees. The Cree Regional Authority (CRA), incorporated in 1978 through an Act of the Quebec National Assembly, is the Cree regional government responsible for the administration of the JBNQA, and the Naskapis are responsible for the administration of the NEQA.

Historically, the settlement of land claims in Canada has been a very slow process due to the different government agendas relating to First Nations self-government. It may be true that when the JBNQA and the NEQA were negotiated, the parties involved were under some duress and felt a certain amount of frustration due to the time constraints. Still, these are unique agreements and the only agreements on a broadbased form of self-government ever negotiated by First Nations in Canada.

In its 1994 report the Cree-Naskapi Commission stated that “the intent of the Agreement is that the Cree Nation become self-sufficient and self-governing. The spirit is that this self-sufficiency and self-government federal, provincial and Cree governments working together cooperatively, in a spirit of goodwill"2

In its submission to the Cree-Naskapi Commission, the GCCQ voiced its position: “The Crees maintain and continue to maintain their fundamental jurisdiction over all of the Eeyou Astchee [Cree land] although in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, there is a recognition that there could be shared jurisdiction with the government of Quebec and Canada in certain areas.” The GCCQ went on to say: “The 1975 agreement went further in that it not only recognized the fundamental right that the Crees have to continue their traditional way of life, but also recognized the right to opportunities to become involved in other options based on economic and community development.”3

Federal and Provincial Governments

In its annual report on the implementation of the JBNQA and the NEQA, the federal government acknowledges that it has a new relationship with the Cree and Naskapi peoples. The federal government should come to the negotiating table within the true spirit and intent of these agreements and resolve all the outstanding obligations stemming from these agreements.

The provincial government has been silent, although it was a signatory to both agreements. The provincial government must also reconvene, along with the federal government, to address issues related to Cree and Naskapi governments. A lack of provincial participation in this area will only compound the issues. All parties to the agreements must find their respective solutions.


Although, there is a problem of vagueness in the JBNQA and the NEQA, these agreements are modern-day treaties that must be respected. The Cree-Naskapi Commission urges all parties to come back to the negotiating table to deal with the unfulfilled obligations within the spirit and intent of the agreements, and to state their true intentions. We also feel that both levels of government must assert themselves as true partners in forging ahead to reach a satisfactory state of self-government for the Cree and Naskapi peoples.

Elders and Youth

In its 1991 report, the Cree-Naskapi Commission proposed a formalized role for the elders. Three years later, in its 1994 report, the Commission stated that conflicts arose between the traditional and contemporary procedures. The Commission feels that everyone has a role to play in achieving self-government in the Cree and Naskapi communities.

The wisdom and knowledge of the elders is a valuable asset and, coupled with the eagerness of youth to learn, they will only strengthen the successful bonding of the respective Cree and Naskapi traditions. The elders must be consulted on a daily basis in the formation of contemporary governments. They alone can speak of the sacred places in communities and help preserve the future of the Cree and Naskapi traditions. This, of course, will be totally dependent upon the willingness of the elders to share their views.


  1. The Queen v. Sioui, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1025 (S.C.C.).

  2. Cree-Naskapi Commission’s biennial report to Parliament, 1994, p. 8.

  3. Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec)/Cree Regional Authority to the Cree-Naskapi Commission, June 25, 1996, pp. 3-4.

Chapter 2
Self-Government and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act

As it presently stands, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act forms the basis of the local governmental apparatus within the Cree and Naskapi communities. A series of by-laws adopted under the Act are presently being applied with varying degrees of success. However, some of the communities are concerned that the Act is not flexible enough to enable them to express their growing jurisdictional needs. Local governments, it is said, have a distinctly “municipal” flavour to them. For example, the Act applies only to Category I lands, which in certain instances can create problems of enforcement, for example, in the maintenance of peace within the community.

In certain communities, the concept of self-government is decidedly evolving in areas not foreseen by those who framed the Act. Waswanipi, a Cree community of about 1,000 people, is a case in point. The community has had to deal with an increasing peace-keeping problem. It also felt that the administration of justice by the “travelling” court was inadequate when it came to maintaining local peace, mainly because the court did not reflect the community’s customs and culture, and it took too long to offer a solution when a member of the community did something wrong, negating the notion that the punishment was in any way related to the deed it was supposed to punish.

The first action taken by Waswanipi was the adoption of the Waswanipi Police Act, which now regulates police procedures and accountability. This is a novel Act in the sense that it extends the police’s jurisdiction in some areas outside Category I lands. The community has since adopted the Waswanipi Peace Act, which replaces all the old “behaviour” by-laws and, more importantly, establishes a Community Justice Panel with jurisdiction over the matters covered in the first part of the Act. In fact, Waswanipi is in the first stages of completely replacing the jurisdiction of the provincial court in matters of local behaviour. The Community Justice Panel is due to start its work this fall, once its members are trained.

The passage of these two community laws illustrates the growing awareness of the Cree and Naskapi communities in finding self-government solutions, which are sometimes beyond the scope of federal and provincial legislation. This probably indicates that the text of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act needs to be reviewed, to adapt its contents in order to enable the communities to exercise self-government as they define it, with minimum outside interference.

The issue of the expression of self-government has resurfaced on another front. It is reported that the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) is considering the establishment of a national coordinating body that could examine questions related to the formulation of a Cree constitution more adapted to the contemporary reality of the exercise of true self-government. This initiative follows a resolution adopted to that effect at the June 1996 Cree General Assembly. It is quite certain that these discussions will have a direct bearing on the JBNQA and on the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.

The legislative scheme of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act was primarily designed to ensure better administration of local government. But the Cree-Naskapi Commission has noted in previous reports that minimum percentage rules have frustrated some local plans and priorities. The transfer of Mistissini Category IA lands to the Ouje-Bougoumou Band is a case in point. Under the long-awaited Ouje-Bougoumou - Canada Agreement signed in 1992, approximately 100 square kilometres of land will formally change hands. However, Subsection 144(1) of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act stipulates that at least 65 percent of the electors must vote on the transfer. No one opposes the land transfer Mistissini has failed to meet the 65 percent requirement because many people are out on the land much of the year.

As we move further into the second decade of the exercise of contemporary self-government powers in the Cree and Naskapi communities, it is necessary to make some adjustments to the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act to accommodate the legitimate needs of the communities and to make local governments more efficient. A review of the rules governing the minimum percentage of participation required to give effect to Council decisions and by-laws is clearly overdue. Both the Crees and the Naskapis want a review, and its delay has undermined local government initiatives and steady progress towards the realization of genuine self-government in the hands of the Cree and Naskapi peoples and their leaders.

Genuine self-government has been the goal of the Crees and the Naskapis since the signing of the JBNQA and the NEQA, and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act recognizes some of the powers necessary to govern large territories and a growing population. There have been successes in the use of these powers, like band elections, and disappointments, like the disallowance of strict intoxicant by-laws. A review of the Act will expedite the attainment of self-government.


The federal government should initiate a review of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act to make it more receptive to the growing community need to express effective self-government.

Update on Land Claims

The land claims issue has been evolving since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the Calder case,1 which forced the federal government to revise its approach to First Nations issues articulated in its 1969 White Paper.2 Despite Ottawa’s efforts to express its policies through the 1982 policy documents entitled In All Fairness (comprehensive claims) and Outstanding Business (specific claims), and the recognition of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982, the Oka crisis has illustrated the need for a complete overhaul of the claims resolution process that will eventually affect the application of the JBNQA and the NEQA.

The debate that followed the crisis eventually led to the creation of an interim Indian Specific Claims Commission, established by orderincouncil on July 15, 1991, with Harry S. Laforme as the Chief Commissioner.3 The main role of the ICC (as the Commission is better known) is to inquire into, and report on, the rejection of specific claims by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The ICC plays another interesting role - that of mediator to the parties, when they request it. However, the ICC’s recommendations are not binding on the parties. The commissioners have recently expressed their concern that most of their 18 completed reports have not been followed up by the federal government. In a recent letter to the Prime Minister, they informed him that they would not accept any claims after the month of August and that they expected to deal with outstanding claims by March 1997. They have also indicated their concern about the lack of progress on the establishment of an independent body to deal with claims issues.

During the 1993 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised fundamental reforms to claims resolution if it was elected. This promise forms the basis of the latest efforts by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) to develop the project of an independent body that would be responsible for resolving claims issues. According to the AFN, this body would: be legislatively based, promote equality between the parties, promote mediation over adjudication, and have the power to enforce its decisions if a claim went so far as to be submitted to an adjudication panel. This proposal would, among other things, relieve DIAND of the responsibility of determining the validity of claims.

Claims Reform and the Cree-Naskapi Commission

How does the evolution of the discussions on claims reform reflect on the Cree-Naskapi Commission? Discussions on better means to resolve claims issues could lead to the amendment of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act to modify the Commission’s role and give it the power to mediate cases arising from the application of the JBNQA. The JBNQA presently lacks an enforcement and dispute resolution process relative to the obligations Quebec and Ottawa have under the Agreement. This has led to numerous and costly court cases. The Commission has already successfully acted as mediator in the establishment of the community of Ouje-Bougoumou and in the negotiations concerning the operations and maintenance formulas. The Commission can draw on its neutral status and its reputation within the communities and with the Government of Canada.

There is no better time to examine the alternatives. The Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) made its position clear in its 1996 submission to the Commission, stating that “the Agreement was also negotiated in the context of principles and approaches which are now clearly in question.”4 The submission stresses that extinguishment and the exercise of federal fiduciary obligations must be revisited, in light of the evolution of legal thought on these issues.


The federal government, along with the Cree-Naskapi Commission, the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) and the Naskapi leadership, should examine the possibility of amending the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act to permit the modification of the mandate of the Commission, in order to enable it to act as a mediator in disputes involving the Crees, the Naskapis, and the federal and provincial governments regarding the implementation of the JBNQA and the NEQA, as well as any other issues affecting their relationships.

Amendments to the Indian Act

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is in the process of amending the Indian Act. The process apparently started in the spring of 1995 when the Minister, the Honourable Ron Irwin, wrote to the Cree and Naskapi chiefs and other First Nations leaders to seek their views on possible amendments to the Act. Many of the proposed changes would remove some obsolete provisions and certain sections requiring ministerial approval. Generally, the proposed changes lessen the degree of federal involvement in internal First Nations affairs. In a letter sent to the chiefs in September 1995, the Minister notes that the proposed changes are “minor” but have been formulated to grant “greater control on a short-term basis while we move jointly to implement recognition of the inherent right of First Nations to govern their own affairs”.

It is apparently the intention of the federal government to adopt a First Nations government Act (Bill S-9), which was read for the first time on June 13, 1996. This Act would enable a First Nation to declare its self-governing status and to adopt a constitution. In general terms, the draft law should give First Nations some flexibility in the way they govern themselves.

A number of questions are, however, being raised subsequent to this federal initiative. It is not clear how the proposed modifications to the Indian Act could influence the interpretation of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. It is also not clear if Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act communities may avail themselves of the terms of the proposed First Nations government Act. The Cree-Naskapi Commission is monitoring the situation and plans to correspond with the Minister and possibly conduct a number of studies to evaluate the effect of the proposed modifications to the Indian Act on the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act (because of their jurisprudential interrelation) and the contents of the proposed First Nations government Act. It is proposed that a plain-language version of the draft version of the new Indian Act be eventually made available for discussion.


The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development should involve the Cree-Naskapi Commission in the review of the Indian Act because this opens up the possibility of proceeding to a review of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act (and other similar Acts), in light of the proposed amendments and of the legal and jurisprudential impact of the Indian Act on the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.


  1. Calder v. B.C., [1973] S.C.R. 313.

  2. “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969, Presented by the Honourable Jean Chrétien to the First Session of the 28th Parliament”.

  3. The Honourable Mr. Justice Laforme was appointed to the Ontario Court (general division) in 1994. He has been replaced by Co-chair Dan Bellegarde and Co-chair Jim Prentice, Q.C.

  4. Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec)/Cree Regional Authority to the Cree-Naskapi Commission, June 25, 1996, p.9.

Chapter 3
Outstanding Issues

Housing and Infrastructure

The Cree and Naskapi communities continue to suffer the consequences of inadequate housing. Previous Commission reports highlighted housing as a major concern. The supply of houses has always fallen, and continues to fall, far short of the demand. It is expected that the current backlog in the Cree communities, estimated at 763 units, will double to about 1,587 units by the year 2004, as young Crees reach the age where they start families and as it becomes necessary to replace existing stock.1 It is evident that unless the issue is dealt with immediately, conditions, including a demand for an appropriate level of infrastructure services, will only worsen.

On July 25, 1996, the federal government announced a new First Nations housing policy. Funding for on-reserve housing will increase by $140 million over the next five years. This includes an increase of $60 million to the 1996/97 budget. These are not new funds, but rather a reallocation of existing funds ($40 million from DIAND and $20 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). In June, the government also announced that DIAND’s budget for water and sewers had been increased by $98.5 million for 1996/97 to accelerate infrastructure projects.

Regrettably, the new federal housing policy for First Nations, “aimed at fulfilling the government’s Red Book commitment” falls short of the minimum expectations of First Nations as put forth by the Assembly of First Nations to DIAND in November 1992.2 It is not yet known what impact these two announcements will have on the Cree and Naskapi communities. Should the new policy result in more houses being built, additional infrastructure will be required to service these new homes. As a result, the operations and maintenance (O & M) agreements will need to be revisited.

A key component of the new housing policy will require First Nations to make use of debt financing for housing activity. The availability of DIAND’s Ministerial Loan Guarantees as security on housing loans will be increased substantially. The policy will be implemented on a voluntary basis. First Nations that choose to opt out of the new policy will continue to operate under the existing DIAND on-reserve housing program.

The Crees and the Naskapis are in a unique situation when it comes to borrowing money for housing. The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act stipulates that they enact by-laws requiring that 20 percent of community members of voting age accept borrowing by-laws for each loan. The Naskapi Band has made a strong case for removing the minimum-percentage requirement. The Band borrows funds on a long-term basis every year to build housing at Kawawachikamach. Borrowing for housing has become routine, and it is difficult to arouse interest in a matter when the community believes the Council can, and should be able to, handle it within its own authority. The 20 percent rule has led to delays that are costly to the Band and unnecessarily adds to the administration of local government.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission will monitor the implementation of the new housingpolicy and, in particular, the operations and maintenance requirements and the issue of borrowing more money to address housing needs in the Cree and Naskapi communities. It will also continue to press the Government of Canada to improve housing conditions in cooperation with First Nation governments.

Operations and Maintenance Funding Transfer Payment Agreement and Emergency Agreement

In March 1988, a protocol agreement called for the appointment of a mediator to oversee the implementation of the JBNQA. In order to get the federal government to fulfill its obligations under the JBNQA, it took an outofcourt settlement in 1988 to obtain an appropriate level of operations and maintenance funding for the Crees. In addition to funds already received, an additional payment of $16.9 million was provided for the period from April 1, 1984 to March 31, 1989. Under the terms of the settlement, the federal government and the Crees agreed to negotiate a five-year financial agreement for the subsequent period from April 1, 1989 to March 31, 1994. The new agreement did not materialize.

Instead, an emergency agreement3 was negotiated to provide for a seven-year funding arrangement between Canada and the Crees to increase the existing Cree capital allocation for infrastructure; to provide for Canada’s financial participation in dealing with emergency health and sanitation needs of the Cree communities of Chisasibi, Mistissini, Waskaganish, Eastmain and Wemindji and to resolve certain outstanding amounts in dispute referred to as “past capital”. As part of the emergency agreement, the Crees acknowledged that the amounts in dispute had been fully and finally settled up to and including March 31, 1993. A four-year emergency funding plan of $22.2 million for certain projects and a seven-year adjustment for infrastructure capital of $12.5 million are provided, for a total contribution of $34.7 million.

Section 7 of the emergency agreement led to negotiations in accordance with the July 1988 out-of-court settlement regarding O & M funding. A new annual O & M agreement was signed on September 7, 1995 to provide a subsidy for the period from April 1, 1995 to March 31, 2000, in order to fulfill the federal government’s responsibilities under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. Under the agreement, Canada pays $33.8 million in the base year (April 1, 1995 to March 31, 1996), an amount that is to be adjusted annually for price and volume.

A similar agreement has been negotiated with the Naskapis. It covers a five-year period, from April 1, 1995 to March 31, 2000, and is designed to eliminate the situation that caused a reduction of $187,000 in 1993/94. It provides for baseyear funding in the amount of $2,148,577 and is to be adjusted annually for price and volume. The agreement was approved by Treasury Board on August 6, 1996.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission is very optimistic that the operations and maintenance funding agreement that was signed on September 7, 1995 by representatives of the Cree and federal governments will be productive, despite the time constraints.

Chisasibi Airport

The matter of the Chisasibi airport is included in the unfulfilled obligations court case.4 The Chisasibi Band maintains that the local land strip is a problem,5 not only in the physical sense, but also in the legal sense. More importantly, it is essential that proper airport facilities be maintained to service the regional hospital located there. It is not in the best interests of patients who need medical transportation to drive to or from LG2. Letters patent for the airport strip, known as Block D, were issued to the James Bay Development Corporation in 1979, after the JBNQA was signed. According to the Department of Transport, the land is still owned by the Province and it is the responsibility of the Government of Quebec to provide the necessary resources to operate and maintain the airport. The Province, however, maintains that the airport at LG2 is sufficient and there is no need to have another in Chisasibi.6

A new Airports Capital Assistance Program came into effect on April 1, 1995. The Cree Nation of Chisasibi might be eligible to participate in it. In addition, the Quebec Regional Office of DIAND recently informed the Chief of possible assistance from the Department of National Defence (DND). DND does not provide funds but will do renovations/repairs as needed.

According to the Quebec Regional Office of DIAND, this is a matter to be settled between the Crees, the Province and the James Bay Development Corporation. It appears that the transfer could be facilitated provided the Province can retain access to the bay.


Although the matter is before the courts, the Cree-Naskapi Commission might assist in the negotiation of the transfer of the airstrip to the Chisasibi Band.

Land Registry System

Local land registry offices are now open in seven of the eight Cree communities and at Kawawachikamach (Naskapi). Waswanipi has yet to decide on the opening of a local land registry office.

It seems that pressure is building in Waswanipi to allow the implementation of the system, following plans to privatize some of the Council’s assets, such as the cafeteria. Lending institutions, notaries, lawyers and others increasingly expect that documents such as hypothecs, rights or agreements of superficie, lease agreements, land-use plans and, eventually, wills, etc., be either registered or deposited with the system.

It appears that for the establishment of the Cree-Naskapi land registry offices, DIAND has fulfilled its obligations under the Act and the Regulations. Funding is provided in the O & M agreements (both Cree and Naskapi) for the maintenance of the local land registry offices. DIAND covers the cost of setting up the system and training local land registrars appointed by the Cree and Naskapi communities.

A computerized land registry system currently being promoted to other First Nations and a Geographic Information System (GIS) may have application in Cree and Naskapi communities. DIAND has made a presentation to Mistissini, where a GIS system is already operational.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission will continue to monitor the Cree-Naskapi land registry system to ensure that it is functioning effectively.

Membership and Beneficiary List

The Crees have voiced concerns regarding the manner in which the beneficiary list is managed under Section 3 of the JBNQA. It seems that concerns have been voiced about the application of Subsection 3.2.7, under which people lose their beneficiary status if they are away from the territory for ten years. The issue of the “ten-year clause” has been specifically raised in jurisdictions such as the Cree School Board, where some students living in urban centres have been denied their education benefits following the loss of their beneficiary status. Those who have lost their status have requested that the application of the clause be reviewed to determine if there is any possibility of restoring beneficiary status to those who have lost it. There were also questions about the existence of the appeal board (vested in the person of a provincial court judge) mentioned in Subsections 3.4.1 to 3.4.6 of the JBNQA. People who have lost their status find it unjust and unfair.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that the parties to the JBNQA and the NEQA negotiate ways to apply the “ten-year clause” to take into account situations where some beneficiaries have compelling reasons to be absent from the territory for long periods, such as lack of housing, education and employment opportunities, etc. It also recommends that criteria of just and fair application be developed so that beneficiaries will not be unnecessarily penalized.

Education and Training

a) Education

The Crees and the Naskapis continue to seek ways to meet education and training needs and obligations. Canada and Quebec recently signed an education agreement to meet obligations to the Crees and the Inuit stipulated under the JBNQA. A joint funding process for the Cree and Kativik school boards has been agreed to by both governments.

The Crees, however, contend that their exclusion from the negotiations has rendered the process flawed. They maintain that they must participate in any process that is related to the JBNQA.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that the federal and provincial governments ensure that the Crees and the Naskapis participate in all discussions and negotiations regarding Cree and Naskapi education.

b) Training

The Crees and the Naskapis have reached agreements with Human Resources Development Canada on the transfer of the administration of job training, job search and employment insurance programs. The agreements will enable the Crees and the Naskapis to develop and manage cohesive and relevant employment and training initiatives.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that long-term financial agreements in relation to training be entered into with the Crees and the Naskapis, as they have proposed.


Revenue Canada implemented its Indian Act (Tax) Exemption for Employment Income Guidelines in 1995. The Guidelines ostensibly provide an interpretation of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Williams v. the Queen.7 In general, they outline the conditions status Indians must meet in order to be exempt from personal federal income tax. The key element in the Guidelines is the definition of the location where the income is earned. Income earned by a status Indian on lands reserved for Indians is considered exempt from taxation. The Guidelines are based on an interpretation of Sections 87 and 90 of the Indian Act and are applied to the Crees and the Naskapis under Sections 187 to 193 of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The applicable sections are virtually the same as the Indian Act definition for tax exemption. Consequently, the same concerns and issues expressed by the Crees and the Naskapis regarding the interpretation of the Williams v. the Queen decision apply.

Currently, a key issue resulting from the federal government’s Aboriginal tax policies involves the dispute between the Cree School Board and Revenue Canada over a joint trust account established to hold funds deducted from employees’ paycheques between 1978 and 1983 pending the outcome of the Nowegijick income tax case.8 Both parties are continuing to discuss a means to an equitable solution.

The Crees of Mistissini provide another example where interpretation of the Indian Act (Tax) Exemption for Employment Income Guidelines resulted in a conflict between Revenue Canada and the Crees. This situation, which was eventually resolved out of court, centred on the income earned by Mistissini Crees while employed by Mistco Ventures Inc., a Cree entity, on Category III lands. Revenue Canada initially ruled that the income in question was earned outside of Category 1 and Category 1A lands and was therefore taxable. However, it reversed its decision shortly after the Crees filed proceedings with the Federal Court, Trials Division, on behalf of Mistco and the Cree employees.

The harmonization of the provincial sales tax and the Goods and Services Tax in 1991 continues to be a point of contention with both the Crees and the Naskapis. Discussions with both levels of government have not resulted in any evident success.

The common element surrounding the Cree and Naskapi taxation issues is the narrow interpretation of current taxation case law with respect to income earned by status Indians and Cree corporate entities. Quebec has followed Canada’s lead in this regard.

It is clear that the federal government’s guidelines and policies regarding the exemption of the Crees and the Naskapis from taxation are ambiguous. The Cree-Naskapi Commission will continue to monitor this situation.


With respect to the Cree School Board -- Revenue Canada trust fund issue, it is recommended that the federal government and the Crees continue to seek a solution through dialogue or through third-party intervention other than the courts. It is also recommended that the federal government, through the Minister of Finance, recognize the tax-exempt status of the Crees and the Naskapis, as described in Part XIV of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.


  1. Housing backlog projection, Norm Hawkins, May 1996.

  2. The new policy barely covers inflation costs. See “Recommendations of the Assembly of First Nations Housing Task Force”, November 18, 1992: “An estimated $50 million is required to offset the loss of purchasing power due to inflation since 1983.”, p. 12.

  3. An Agreement Regarding the Cree Capital Allocation Adjustment for Infrastructure and Regarding Certain Emergency Projects, August 4, 1993.

  4. Superior Court, Province of Quebec file #500-05-004330-906, March 30, 1994, Paragraphs 38.4(4)(d) and (d.3), pp. 45 and 46.

  5. “Cree-Naskapi Commission Hearings”, November 17, 1993, pp. 5-7 and January 24, 1996, pp. 89-92.

  6. Letter from Minister Ron Irwin dated May 23, 1996.

  7. Williams v. the Queen, [1992] 3 C.N.L.R. 181 (S.C.C.).

  8. Nowegijick v. the Queen, [1983] 2 C.N.L.R. 89 (S.C.C.).

Chapter 4
Territorial Resource Management

Cree and Naskapi Development in the Region

Huge tracts of territory and abundant resources are evident to anyone who has travelled in the ancestral lands of the Cree and Naskapi peoples. European interests centred on furs in the early centuries of northern trade and commerce, and hydro-electric development has opened Cree and Naskapi lands to expanding commercial development in the past twenty-five years. It is estimated that some 400 to 500 square kilometres of forests are harvested each year. This has led to a very rapid extension of the road network, estimated at 5,000 kilometres. Mining, tourism, and sports hunting and fishing have increased because of the easier access to the territory, and they will quickly affect the harvesting grounds and the subsistence economy of the Crees and the Naskapis.

The pace of, and approach to, commercial development is a matter of public interest, with Cree, Naskapi, and Canadian governments having a role in shaping the northern economy. The Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) has expressed its concern about northern development: “The largest of (our) problems at the present time is that the Crees are largely excluded from the development of the James Bay territory and that the strategy of the Quebec government in developing the territory has been to emphasize the role of the newcomer non-Aboriginals into the territory while relegating the Cree involvement to a minority position.”1

The Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) also makes this observation: “The Agreement established a regime for the adoption of laws, regulations and policies to safeguard the continuation of the Cree traditional way of life, while at the same time guaranteed a determinative say in whether or not and how the developments would go ahead, and guaranteed Cree opportunity to be involved in this.”2

As we look to the North, we see that forestry, tourism and mining development are moving deeper into Cree and Naskapi homelands. Hydro development is active. Billions of dollars are earned each year from the territory, and the largest economic benefits from the agreements have flowed to non-Aboriginal governments, companies and workers. The Cree and Naskapi lands are major contributors to Quebec’s economy. Furthermore, the cash settlement funds received by the Crees and the Naskapis have also helped non-Aboriginal companies and governments finance many commercial activities because a considerable amount has been invested in shares, bonds, provincial government debentures and treasury bills.

This is the aspect of agreements that is not understood by the general public, which may believe settlements cost Canadian taxpayers too much. It can be shown, especially in the case of Cree and Naskapi land claim agreements, that the net gain to Canadians greatly exceeds the initial cash payments and annual program costs that would have been incurred whether or not there was an agreement.

Cree and Naskapi rights and interests remain in Category I, II and III lands, and the presence of the Crees and the Naskapis would dictate a leading role in the region’s development. Yet the Crees and the Naskapis feel they have been excluded from the region’s development. Exclusionary practices have occurred in several provinces this century: a pattern of treaties followed by hydro development, resource extraction and few returns to the original inhabitants. We believe the land claim agreements are structured to create prosperity and opportunity for all.

It is logical that the Crees and the Naskapis should benefit from sustainable development. They can also make a significant contribution to commercial development, whether this contribution is their vast knowledge of the land and its resources, their human resources or their financial investments. Sustainable development is a common goal, and it is a goal Canadian and Aboriginal leaders can, and do, agree on.

One economic goal is the creation of jobs, especially for young people. This is a high priority for all governments. Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come has stated that 400 new jobs per year are needed over the next ten years for the Crees who will be entering the labour force. The full use of Cree and Naskapi government powers and resources will better achieve the economic and human goals in the region. Without their participation as equal partners, the sad state of affairs and conditions in other parts of the country will surely follow. We believe that all peoples in Quebec should, and can, benefit from the historic agreements that have been concluded. Any other outcome will be a mistake many generations will come to regret. For our part, the Commission will do everything within its authority to facilitate closer working relations on issues of pressing importance to the parties.

Forestry and Resource Sharing

Forestry issues in Cree territory focus on the incompatibility of management practices on, and jurisdiction over, the territory in relation to rights and the Cree way of life.

The Crees maintain that the JBNQA provides for mechanisms that would enable their way of life to be protected from future developments. One such mechanism is the requirement that the Crees approve the type and scope of such developments.

The current regime for forestry development in Cree Territory, particularly on Category II and Category III lands, is dictated by Quebec’s Forest Act. This legislation is currently silent on First Nations and Aboriginal peoples and their territories. It does not provide for consultation with the Cree communities. In fact, it effectively excludes the Cree from any economic benefits that could be enjoyed through appropriate and responsible forest management activities in the territory.

Cree and government statistics indicate that 95 percent of Category III lands are now under third-party forest management agreements. According to Cree estimates, the resulting logging has affected 40 to 80 percent of the traditional traplines in five Cree communities.3

Despite these facts, Quebec and the Crees have established a Working Group on Forestry and Mining that would provide for a process to facilitate potential joint ventures and co-management regimes through a proactive working relationship. Consequently, Cree communities must now face a number of choices. They can try to take legal action and argue that Quebec allows forestry operations that are not compatible with hunting, fishing and trapping activities in the territory.4 Such an allegation appears in the action filed in 1990 in Superior Court by the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) -- Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come v. Hydro-Québec et al. However, the costs and the time factor associated with such legal measures do not make such a solution very attractive to communities. Another option available to communities is to try to find solutions that enable them to evaluate the possible positive effects of co-management of resources with appropriate partners.

Other First Nations communities in Canada have experimented successfully with the concept of co-management. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council of Saskatchewan is an example. In 1987, TechFor Services allied itself with the Tribal Council, which represented nine Cree and Dene communities, to form Norsask Forest Products Inc. The new entity managed to obtain the right to harvest 3.3 million hectares of forested lands. These lands consist of a network of traplines, but agreements have been reached with the trappers and community members to manage them in a holistic way to preserve a traditional way of life. Community representatives now sit on co-management boards and participate in the planning of forestry activities. Norsask currently has over 200 First Nations employees out of a tribal population of about 5,000 members. The Tribal Council receives 40 percent of the profits from the operations. The venture is considered to be a model of commercial success. A similar approach is currently being impl emented in Waswanipi on a more modest scale.

This case illustrates a growing trend in First Nations communities towards seeking alternatgal or physical confrontations on issues relating to natural resources. However, the ultimate course of action resides with the Crees, who are actually faced with difficult choices. At the regional level, the GCCQ established a Forestry Working Group in 1995 to conduct community discussions on forestry issues. The Group produced a position paper entitled “Crees and Trees”, which has been submitted to governments.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that all parties continue to seek avenues for resolving outstanding issues related to forest management in the territory. Proactive and meaningful dialogue by all concerned is seen by the Commission as the best means to reaching an equitable solution to the complex issues surrounding forestry, land use and revenue sharing in the territory. It is further recommended that the federal and provincial governments fulfill their obligations under the JBNQA and the NEQA regarding environmental assessments of future developments in the territory.


Two specific cases related to mining have come to the forefront. The first involves the INMET Mining Company (Troilus) and the Mistissini Band, and concerns INMET’s intention to begin an open-pit mining operation. The proposed project is scheduled to begin in 1997 on Category III lands on the Mistissini Band’s traditional territory.5 The INMET-Mistissini agreement dealt with issues surrounding site access, environmental issues, employment and training, and the contract for cutting the path for the 139-kilometre electrical transmission line. In fact, the agreement established provisions for prospector training, employment opportunities representing up to 25 percent of the required workforce, and the awarding of the contract to clear the land for the Troilus electrical transmission line to Mistco Ventures Inc., a Cree entity.

The main issue is the implementation of environmental studies for such projects. As with forestry, the process for conducting environmental assessments is clearly outlined in the JBNQA.6 However, financial and administrative constraints have continued to hinder the effectiveness of this process.

The Naskapis have expressed concern over the future exploration and development of the Voisey Bay mineral deposit in Labrador. They have made a statement of claim over the territory, arguing that they have traditionally occupied and utilized the land in question. The key question in this matter is whether the issue can be resolved under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act or the NEQA.


The projected rate of mining development has created concern among the Crees and the Naskapis regarding the environmental integrity of the territory. The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that both levels of government, in partnership with the Crees and the Naskapis, implement a process, provided for in the JBNQA and the NEQA, for responsible mining development in the territory.


Sections 28.4 and 28.6 of the JBNQA provide for the creation of the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association. The Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) has initiated discussions with the federal and provincial governments for the fulfilment of this treaty obligation.

The federal government, through the Quebec Regional Office of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has provided financial support for the preliminary studies required for the creation of the Association. The Government of Quebec, while supportive of this initiative, has not responded as proactively as the federal government. The key issue for Quebec is in developing an equitable balance for tourism development in the region between the Crees and thirdparty interests. The Crees maintain that discussions, while protracted, are progressing.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that the Quebec government expedite the resolution of its concerns regarding third-party interests, and that the federal government continue to provide financial support in this treaty entitlement issue.

Harvesting Rights

The rights to protect the Cree and Naskapi way of life and to harvest are at the heart of the modern treaties covering vast territories now known as Category I, II and III lands - nearly one million square kilometres. It is a way of life sacred to the people, and outside government interference is offensive to the Cree and Naskapi peoples and their leaders.

There are harvesting guarantees in the agreements,7 and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act provides for the making of by-laws regarding hunting, fishing, trapping and the protection of wildlife. These guarantees and law-making powers are enshrined so that the Cree and Naskapi peoples may continue their way of life on the land. The Crees and the Naskapis are, however, troubled by the federal firearms law and the provincial administration of fish and game.

Last year, Cree and Naskapi leaders proposed specific amendments to the federal firearms bill to avoid conflict with their harvesting rights. Submissions to both the Commons and Senate standing committees examining the bill were made by the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) and the Cree Regional Authority, and by the Cree Trappers’ Association. Consequently, a provision was added to ensure the law does not diminish Aboriginal and treaty rights.

While the Firearms Act8 includes permissive authority for the Governor-in-Council to make regulations for the application of the new legislation to Aboriginal peoples (Subsection 117(u)), the Crees and the Naskapis are not convinced their right to harvest with a firearm and the freedom to pursue their traditional practices will be adequately safeguarded by regulations.

Even so, the Crees and the Naskapis are prepared to review the draft regulations through the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee set up to address matters of this nature, before taking any court action against the Crown. The Minister of Justice has expressed his government’s willingness to consult on the regulations before tabling them for review by Parliament in the fall of 1996.9

The federal firearms law is seen as another measure that may infringe on Cree and Naskapi rights to harvest. Bill C23, an Act to implement a convention for the protection of migratory birds in Canada and United States, also had serious shortcomings with respect to Cree harvesting rights.10

The Cree-Naskapi Commission is hopeful that the deliberations on firearms control will be successful. It is a test of the will of governments to find solutions that the Crees and the Naskapis can accept. These solutions can then be put into the northern harvesting and firearms regime by Cree and Naskapi governments. To put it plainly, the Crees and the Naskapis must first consent to the proposed changes and then take careful action to ensure minimum interference in their harvesting practices. It must be made clear that Aboriginal harvesting practices and rights must be put ahead of general legislative objectives, and this need not be incompatible if done properly.

Quebec and the federal government agreed to modify the fish and game regime to reflect Cree and Naskapi harvesting rights. Administration of fish and game laws fall within provincial jurisdiction, made possible through a federal transfer in 1922. Federal jurisdiction is centred on the management of marine mammal populations in James Bay. An example is the Chisasibi proposal to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regarding the harvesting of whales on a small scale. The reality of this regime is that any discussion regarding wildlife involves Quebec. This is particularly true when it comes to the allocation of moose and other species, notwithstanding guaranteed levels inthe JBNQA. The Coordinating Committee, comprised of Cree, federal and provincial representatives, has been in existence for 20 years and has achieved some success, but it continues to be hampered by political and interpretation issues. Both the Crees and Quebec agree that harvesting issues must be addressed more expeditiously by the Coordinating Committee.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that the federal government, the Quebec government, the Crees and the Naskapis develop a process to resolve outstanding issues in an expeditious manner and in the spirit and intent of the JBNQA and the NEQA.

Environmental Assessments

The environmental assessment process provisions found under Section 22 of the JBNQA were applied to the project of a sawmill joint venture involving the community of Waswanipi and Domtar Ltd. Although every aspect of the project had been thoroughly discussed at the community level over the last few years, it was decided to submit the project to an environmental assessment because it was felt that the activities of the sawmill and related operations could possibly affect lands used by many categories of people, including trappers, hunters and tourists. It appears that it was the first time such a process was implemented relative to a community economic development project. In December 1994, the local environment administrator submitted preliminary information on the sawmill project to the Evaluating Committee. In February 1995, the Committee sent Mishtuk Corporation - Domtar Ltd. (the proponents of the project) a set of guidelines to assist in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessmen t Statement.

In accordance with the guidelines, Mishtuk-Domtar had to evaluate the possible effects of the project on the people living on, and using, the lands targeted by the project. The guidelines required a description of existing land-use patterns, including hunting and trapping activities, and of the mitigation and compensatory measures to be taken to ensure the maximum protection of traditional activities and of the land.

Since the project met the initial requirements of the guidelines and public hearings had been held, on July 16, 1996 the Waswanipi Environmental Officer issued the necessary authorization that will enable the sawmill project to proceed. The authorization letter is accompanied by a list of 12 conditions, including the requirement that a monitoring process be established, better control of access to the lands, assurance that Mishtuk-Domtar would set up a process to mitigate the social and environmental impacts of the project, and the transmission of forestry operations standards to the Environmental Officer. Barring unforeseen obstacles, the construction of the sawmill will begin this September, and operations are set to commence in May 1997.


The Cree-Naskapi Commission recommends that all projects, including those initiated by the Crees and the Naskapis, be submitted to the environmental impact assessment process of the JBNQA and the NEQA.


  1. Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec)/Cree RegionalAuthority to the Cree-Naskapi Commission, June 25, 1996, p. 25.

  2. Submission of the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec)/Cree Regional Authority to the Cree-Naskapi Commission, June 25, 1996, p. 25.

  3. “Crees and Trees: A Position Paper on the State of the Forests in Eeyou Astchee”, Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec)/Cree Regional Authority, June 12, 1996.

  4. Part of the argument is based on a declaration by Minister Ciaccia (representing Quebec) found on page XIX of the 1976 publication version of the JBNQA, in which he says: “The Government of Quebec has sought to ensure that the Native peoples can maintain their traditional way of life, which is the basis of their economy, their culture, and their survival. And what’s more, the government has sought to ensure that this way of life is viable.”

  5. Report on Aboriginal Participation in Mining, sixth annual report of the Subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Mineral Industry, August 1995.

  6. Section 22 of the Agreement.

  7. Section 24 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and Section 15 of the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.

  8. An Act respecting firearms and other weapons, 42-43-44 Elizabeth II, Chapter 39, assented to on December 5, 1995.

  9. “Minister of Justice Statement to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs”, November 16, 1995.

  10. Statement by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, May 26, 1994, p. 6.

Chapter 5
Upgrading the Cree and Naskapi Government Arrangements

In this report, we have offered new findings to support our recommendation for a review of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, except for Part XII because an inquiry into this part -- the powers and duties of the Cree-Naskapi Commission -- has already been completed. The review would lead to the amendment of the Act and the upgrading of the intergovernmental arrangements now in place.

Our new findings reinforce our previous findings on this important matter.1
These new findings are:

  • Cree and Naskapi government efforts to improve the condition of their people and to meet their obligations are frustrated by the minimum percentage elector voting rules contained in the Act.
  • There is a growing necessity for Cree and Naskapi governments to find self-government solutions to community issues beyond the scope of provincial and federal laws, including the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.
  • Amendments to federal laws, like the Indian Act, and new laws, like the Firearms Act, have an impact on Cree and Naskapi government arrangements. We must be sure that the Crees and the Naskapis benefit from progressive measures -- a promise in the treaties -- and we must also be sure that Cree and Naskapi governments can adequately respond to federal legislation that affects the fundamental character of the Cree and Naskapi way of life.
  • New policy and legal developments bear on the interpretation of self-government arrangements, and these significant developments must be fully considered to ensure that the implementation of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act reflects contemporary beliefs and practices.

On their own, our findings carry sufficient reasons to review the Act and to upgrade the self-government arrangements. Furthermore, the Commission believes the release of the federal approach to the implementation of the inherent right of self-government is another reason to quickly take action on our recommendation. There are matters of jurisdiction, accountability and paramountcy of Aboriginal laws that may not have been contemplated in the mid-1970s, leading to the 1984 passage of the Act. A review of the existing arrangement would contribute significantly to this federal initiative. The Commission is ready to take the lead in this task.


  1. Cree-Naskapi Commission biennial reports to Parliament, 1991 and 1994.~

Chapter 6
Dispute Resolution and Mediation

We believe the upgrading of the Cree and Naskapi government arrangements also requires the implementation of all the recommendations included in the report of the Commission of Inquiry charged to review the Cree-Naskapi Commission (1991). The strict framework of the existing reporting and investigating functions has become frustrating for the parties. Our previous reports have explained how a new mandate, and new powers and duties will add to self-government implementation, especially an expanded mandate to examine matters related to the JBNQA and the NEQA.

We have thought carefully about the matters to be included in our dispute resolution mandate, the extent to which our mandate might extend to the Government of Quebec with its consent and the consent of all the parties, and our investigative and proposed mediation roles. The Cree-Naskapi Commission has undertaken a variety of mediation and dispute resolution assignments beyond our legislated mandate, with the agreement of the parties. We have, in all modesty, been successful. Long and costly litigation has been avoided, and disputes have been settled through Commission-assisted negotiations. Assisted negotiation is a proper and effective process to resolve issues between governments. It has become more commonplace throughout the world, in business and in government. Most importantly, we have shown it works.

The recommendations of the Inquiry into the Commission will require legislative amendments to the Act. Unfortunately, action on the recommendations has been delayed for five years. In our view, it may be necessary for the Commission, on its own, to activate this languishing file and take steps to prompt action on the recommendations. We are prepared to do so.

[Table of contents] [Chairman’s Message] [Letter to the Minister] [Chapter 1 The Partners] [Chapter 2 Self-Government and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act] [Chapter 3 Outstanding Issues] [Chapter 4 Territorial Resource Management] [Chapter 5 Upgrading the Cree and Naskapi Government Arrangements] [Chapter 6 Dispute Resolution and Mediation]
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