Last week, the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee’s hard work finally paid off.
Bill C-70 — which was passed expeditiously by the Senate — enacts the Cree Nation Governance Agreement and the Cree Constitution. In short, they’ve worked out a self-governance deal with Ottawa. The process starts with an injection of $200 million into the Crees’ coffers, to use to support members of their nation, and will also remove the community from the oversight of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
The Cree have been working on this agreement for some time. And senators understood that. So when this momentous piece of legislation came before the Senate, something quite rare and quite special occurred — everyone agreed.
In one day, the Senate’s Aboriginal peoples committee heard from both government and Cree representatives, went through the bill clause by clause, sent it back to the Senate Chamber and pushed it to the top of the list for a final vote. Senators then passed the bill in one fell swoop, with community members in attendance. It was a true sign of solidarity.
The Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee consists of more than 18,000 Eeyou or Cree living in their traditional territory of Eeyou Istchee, which covers about 400,000 square kilometres located to the east and south of James Bay and Hudson Bay.
As the chair of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, this past year, I have had the honour to meet with people from Indigenous communities from across the country as part of our committee’s ongoing study on building nation-to-nation relationships. We heard from several communities about how important it is for each nation to have its own constitution, and clearly the Cree have set that model — one which other nations may choose to follow.
As a side note, we also learned that almost half of their elected chiefs are women — they wisely recognize that gender-balance goes hand in hand with development. I congratulate them on that.
The Cree of Eeyou Istchee have fought long and hard for this. They involved their community members every step of the way. They’ve done everything right.
I’m glad we could do our part.