WENDAKE, QC, Aug. 29, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ -
With an electoral campaign that is moving into the final stretch before the vote on next September 4th, it's important to note, what, in my opinion, seems to constitute, not an oversight, but a total denial of a reality faced by the First Nations who have been established here for time immemorial. The attention of all Quebecers was caught barely 20 years ago, in a rather brutal way, within the context of what was called the "Oka Crisis". Have we not learnt anything?
A few days before the election was called, the government of Jean Charest concluded an important agreement with the Cree Nation on governance over the James Bay territory, by recognizing in favor of the Cree authorities an unprecedented voice to regulatory issues. Despite the important progress in the links between the Cree Nation and Quebec, with regard to relationships with the First Nations, if Jean Charest had been sitting on a school bench, he would have most certainly failed his school year.
We were on a good path…
We were undoubtedly a bit naive, but I prefer to see some good faith in it on our part, when, at the arrival in power of Jean Charest in April 2003, we undertook to bring a new government, boasting an unblemished record, towards a dialogue between elected representatives on the broad issues that are of great concern to us.
We were mostly happy to observe that after several meetings, the Liberal government and its Premier were prepared to support the idea of an approach that allowed exchanges on subjects as fundamental as the territory and its resources. The process even proposed, at its conclusion, a permanent mechanism of exchange. We were able to take off, but we never succeeded to find the landing strip. Obviously, from that moment on, the government of Quebec did everything it could to avoid all confrontation on these issues.
It is impossible to not review the years under the reign of the Liberal government and the difficulties encountered, especially, when challenged by the realities linked to the territory and its resources. To put it bluntly, we have hit a wall! It became obvious to us, and quickly, that Jean Charest wanted to talk about the territory only according to his particular terms. As soon as we tried to address the issue of the territory on the basis of principles having been the object of a consensus amongst the First Nations, such as the co-management of the decision-making process, development, consultation, sharing of revenues, we were flatly turned down. From that moment, the process for which we had high hopes came to an abrupt end and was replaced by a dialogue of the deaf. Therefore, the government gambled on the conclusion of agreements, rapidly negotiated, on an individual basis. The "divide and rule" attitude!!! The same strategies; the same dishonest intentions.
For a lasting peace
As First Nations, we will have to make choices. Our illusions, if they ever existed, as to our influence on the provincial political environment, are in the past now. However, one thing is clear, although the current campaign turns a blind eye on our reality, we will all be caught up by it, sooner or later. That's especially true for the political party that will have gained the trust of the majority of Quebecers on this coming September 4th.
Naivety and goodwill have been replaced by a greater vigilance and a patience profoundly shaken. You will have the current Premier to thank for this big step backward in our generous good faith.
We will no longer accept the infamy of the compromise, since it only adds to the exasperation of our peoples. The absence of a genuine, clear and result-oriented willingness contributes in motivating our troops to find other recourses. But, what I find more worrisome is that, even if several people were to accuse me of being irresponsible if I were to raise the spectre of a more radical approach, I know that somewhere, amongst our population, this alternative is currently working its way through.
The Author is the Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
SOURCE: ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS OF QUEBEC AND LABRADOR
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