MONTREAL, Nov. 13, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The chiefs of the Innu Nation, Atikamekw Nation and some Anicinabek communities today announced the creation of the Innu Anishnabek Atikamekw Political Coalition, with the aim of working together to defend their ancestral rights and titles, in particular, those covered by the territory of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NQA).
"The chiefs of the Coalition are speaking with one voice to better inform their Cree, Inuit and Naskapi brothers and sisters, as well as Quebeckers and other Canadians, about the unilateral expropriation that resulted from the signing of the JBNQA and the NQA," states the declaration signed by the chiefs just days before the 40th anniversary of the signing of the JBNQA agreement in principle (November 15).
After the agreement in principle was signed on November 11, 1975, a final agreement was reached that awarded broad political and administrative autonomy to the Cree and Inuit communities and recognized their exclusive hunting, fishing and trapping rights on 170,000 km² of territory, as well as providing financial compensation in the short and medium term. In the legislation enacting the Agreement (James Bay and Northern Quebec Native Claims Settlement Act, S.C. 1976-77, c. 32) adopted by the federal government and commonly referred to as Bill C-9, a clause extends the extinguishment of rights to all First Nations on the territory covered by the Agreement, even to those that did not sign it. This is directly detrimental to the Anicinabek, Atikamekw and Innu First Nations, whose ancestral lands partly overlap with the territory of the JBNQA. Since then, these First Nations have always contested the legality of this clause while continuing to maintain a strong connection to their ancestral lands affected by the legislation. Indeed, for 40 years, Innu, Anicinabek and Atikamekw families have carried out their traditional activities on this territory, where their rights are no longer recognized.
The Anicinabek, Atikamekw and Innu never participated in the negotiations that resulted in these agreements. They were excluded from these negotiations and they never agreed to the extinguishment of their rights on their ancestral lands.
"The Cree and Inuit concluded a modern treaty that gives them important rights over a vast territory, but other First Nations also had ancestral rights on a portion of these lands. The unilateral extinguishment of our rights was a serious error at that time, one that governments must now rectify," said Christian Awashish, chief of the Council of the Atikamekw of Opitciwan.
The chiefs who founded the Coalition say they intend to work together and if necessary, take joint legal action aimed at contesting the clause that extinguishes their rights to the territory covered by the Agreements. "We have never surrendered, abandoned or renounced our ancestral rights and titles to these lands. The extinguishment clause in Bill C-9 is unconstitutional and contravenes international human rights standards. We are determined to use every means necessary to put an end to this serious injustice," said Innu chief Réal McKenzie.
Over the next few weeks, the Coalition will also raise awareness in Cree, Inuit and Naskapi communities, explaining that this process is not an attack on the Agreements but rather, is aimed at rendering the extinguishment clause inapplicable to the Nations that did not sign it. The Coalition's actions will not call into question the Agreements reached with the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi, nor the settlement legislation that applies to the Agreements.
The Coalition's members are asking to be able to participate in developing the part of their traditional territory covered by the Agreements, including natural resources and economic development, and to benefit from the economic development and tax revenues. "For thousands of years, our people have shared territories without borders. Today, we are embarking on a process aimed at settling the sharing of territory and the full recognition of our ancestral rights. We will find a satisfactory solution that the governments of Canada and Quebec will have to recognize," explained Bruno Kistabish, chief of the Anicinabek.
"This process is a logical continuation of the Atikamekws' recent declaration of sovereignty by our Nation's elected officials. We have never abandoned, surrendered or renounced our ancestral rights and titles to our traditional lands and are more determined than ever to correct the injustice that was done to us," concluded Chief Awashish.
Attachment : Déclaration de la Coalition
SOURCE: Innu Anishnabek Atikamekw Political Coalition
For further information: Source: Éric Duguay, Office: 514-843-2325, Cell: 514-377-1980, firstname.lastname@example.org; Information: Alexandre Bacon, Innu Nation, Cell: 418-262-3153, email@example.com