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Archive | The long road to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar15,2024

Archives | The long road to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement

Signing of the Agreement of James Bay and Northern Quebec on November 11, 1975. (silent images)


50 years ago, on November 15, 1973, Judge Malouf's judgment interrupted work on the James Bay construction sites. From that moment on, the Quebec government had to negotiate with the Crees and the Inuit. Our archives return to the James Bay Agreement.

It was in 1971, in front of a crowd of liberal supporters gathered at the Colisée in Quebec, that the actor Roland Chenail presented the project on a giant screen and large dream of Prime Minister Robert Bourassa: the development of the hydroelectric potential of James Bay.

In this audio extract from the Téléjournal of April 30, 1971, we can hear Prime Minister Robert Bourassa answer questions from journalist Jean Larin. The leader of the Liberal Party mentions that the project will be undertaken without delay and will bring spectacular economic development to Quebec.

Téléjournal, April 30, 1971 (audio)

This report by journalist Gil Courtemanche, broadcast on October 7, 1975 on the show Le 60, presents the history of the project, its implementation costs, its financing and its profitability.

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Prime Minister Robert Bourassa explains that it was necessary for him to develop the potential hydroelectric power plant in James Bay, because Quebec's electricity needs were becoming increasingly important and developing nuclear power plants would have been more expensive.

October 60, 7, 1975

The speakers in the report, Robert Boyd, president of the James Bay Energy Corporation, Éric Goudreau, economist, and Jacques Parizeau, opposition economic spokesperson, agree that the project should have been the subject of more in-depth studies and consultations.

It There are lessons to be learned from this adventure. […] The absence, from the start, of real specialists from the North and of frank contacts with the indigenous populations will certainly have contributed to increasing the costs of James Bay.

A quote from Gil Courtemanche

Some 6,000 Cree and Inuit inhabited the James Bay territory and they did not intend to leave the path open to bulldozers so easily .

James O'Reilly: a life of defending indigenous people

The Crees learned in April 1971 that their territory would be partially flooded. They had not been the subject of any consultation by the government or by Hydro-Québec and had not been informed that major work would allow Quebecers to produce half of their hydroelectricity from their territory. /p>

They asked for the work to be stopped in 1972.

In this extract from the show Review of the year 1972, we return to the request to interrupt development work on James Bay in the Superior Court filed by the Indigenous people.

Canada in 1972, December 31, 1972

As journalist Jean-Paul Nolet explains, the development of James Bay then raised serious ecological concerns for the Cree and Inuit populations.

The work has a direct impact on their way of life.

“Already, their former habitat has been affected by the work. And this without them having been consulted. How will they fish and hunt in the future? » asks the journalist.

On November 15, 1973, Judge Albert Malouf of the Superior Court rendered a judgment which ruled in favor of the Aboriginal people.

After examining the motion, Judge Malouf considers that the Aboriginal people have exercised personal rights and usufruct rights on the territory and that Quebec cannot develop these lands without the prior agreement of the Crees and the Inuit.

Judge Malouf of the Superior Court will say:

The ecological balance that exists in the region will be seriously compromised. The environment will be changed. Due to the dependence of the Aboriginal people, animals and vegetation in the territory, the work will have devastating and far-reaching effects on the Cree Indians and the Inuit.

A quote from Judge Albert Malouf

This is what journalist André Charbonneau explains to us in this report from Green Weekbroadcast on December 16, 1973. André Charbonneau presents a summary of the work that will take place for the construction of the dams and the consequences of this work on the environment and indigenous populations.

Green Week, December 16, 1973

Judge Malouf's judgment was overturned by the court of appeal a week later, but its effect was not significant to say the least. From then on, the Crees and Inuit can no longer be ignored in the development of James Bay.

February 7, 1974 on the show radio program At twenty o'clock, host Armande St-Jean speaks with journalist Hubert Gendron who traces the history of talks between indigenous people and the Quebec government.

On November 14, 1974, the head of the Association of Quebec Indians (AIQ), Max Gros-Louis, explained that no negotiations has started again. He says he is not interested in large amounts of money to settle the issue. Indigenous people want rights to the territory.

Téléjournal, November 14, 1974

The AIQ and its leader Max Gros-Louis hope to resolve the territorial disputes of all the indigenous nations of Quebec at the same time.

The Crees will choose to break their relations with the AIQ to plead their cause themselves by creating the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec.

The government of Quebec, Hydro-Québec, the James Bay Development Corporation and the James Bay Energy Corporation agree to negotiate with the Grand Council of the Crees and the Inuit Association of Northern Quebec.

In 1978, the Naskapis also joined the James Bay and Northern Quebec Convention.

Tonight, February 3, 1978

This report from February 3, 1978 reports the position of the Human Rights Commission following the agreement between the federal and provincial governments and the Naskapi Nation of the Schefferville region.

The Human Rights Commission believes that the James Bay Agreement should not serve as an example for other territorial negotiations with Indigenous people.

The Commission asks the government to ban the principle of the extinction of territorial rights as a mandatory prerequisite to any negotiation.

Aboriginal people are not a minority like other minorities here, but they are a people. Above all, we should stop negotiating as we have always done in the traditional procedure in Canada, starting by extinguishing rights.

A quote from Maurice Champagne, vice-president of the Human Rights Commission.

We would have to wait until 2002 and the Peace of the Brave to see a nation-to-nation negotiation between the government of Quebec and the Crees of James Bay.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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