The Grand Council of the Crees

The Inauguration of the Eastmain 1A Rupert Diversion - Sarcelles Project

Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come

Posted: 2012-06-28

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and Premier Charest at the EM1A InaugurationI have been asked by people, “Isn’t it difficult for me to be here today for this occasion considering the campaigns to oppose projects that I lead in the past”.

No it isn’t.

In those campaigns I was fighting against, discrimination, marginalization, extinguishment, exclusion and the general denial of our rightful place when it comes to the deciding the future of our lands and our communities.

This project, like it or not, when it was negotiated with the Paix des Braves Agreement represented the beginning of the end of the consistent exclusion of the Cree from the table.

Nation to Nation we said.

This project was negotiated by my people, my people participated in its design, my people participated in the construction, my people participated in establishing and monitoring the environmental standards, and my people will even participate in its operations. And we, as NATIONS will benefit from the electricity it generates.

I am here today also to honour the tallymen who sacrificed parts of their lands for the project and gave meaning and value to “Cree consent”.  It was our trappers who came up with the idea for the 3-km tunnel that connects the Rupert Diversion Bays. This tunnel prevented hundreds of hectares from being flooded while ensuring a land bridge for hunters and trappers to access the other side of the flooded area without risk.  It is only fitting that this tunnel bears the name of the late Tommy Neeposh, who despite the flooding of his land, to the very end insisted that we all work together to share the wealth of the land. 

I would also like to thank the late Andrew Moar from Nemaska, who worked hard to ensure that the project would not impact his beloved Nemaska Lake and the rich fish resources found there.  Today, his legacy is maintained by the continued hard work of his wife and family.  I would also like to thank the late Freddie Cowboy, from Waskaganish, who despite some difficulty, never wavered in his support for his many family-members who live and depend on the many resources of Smokey Hill. There are so many other tallymen to thank I could not name them all. We are all learning together, and this has not always been easy, and many challenges lie ahead, but we know that so long as our Cree trappers are involved in the process, we will always navigate our way around these difficult waters.

This project has broken new barriers in terms of environment protection:  when the construction phase is completed, we will have ensured that 15-20% of the total cost of the project will have gone to environment protection and enhancement measures, this compared with the less than 1% for the entire La-Grande project.  This standard is something we can be proud of and hold up as an example to other developers.

Finally I am here today to honour those who worked so hard to build this project.  Since 2007, an average of 213 Crees have worked on this project, corresponding to 10% of the workforce.  In 2008, this number went as high as 433 Crees. There are countless other people to thank…

Indeed, I had mix emotions in coming to this Inauguration. We have come a long way from lack of recognition of Cree rights, and lack of recognition of Cree Hunting and Trapping way of life. We are now working together, using former agreements as  foundations to built better relationships with Quebec.

Thank you for inviting me.