Greetings to our Chief and Council, to our Directors and to all of our Community Members.
I would like to address my message to the Youth of our community. There are great opportunities ahead of the youth within the development of Waskaganish and the surrounding northern communities that is taking place at this present time. All this is available to you.
I remember when I was living here as a young boy growing up in Waskaganish. I would listen to my grandmother talk about how they survived in their traditional way of life. I remember her telling me, with great emotion in her voice, about the unfortunate tragedies of life that some of the Cree families encountered while they were trying to survive in pursuing their traditional way of life of trapping and hunting during the extremely harsh winters.
Today we are seeing new means of development through the Cree Trappers Association. There is assistance for our present Trappers. I see that this lifestyle is slowly loosing the fur market trade. There are not too many Trappers left to continue this lifestyle in Waskaganish. The local Cree Trappers Association needs to sit down and open discussions with the younger Trappers who still want to continue this lifestyle for our Cree Nation here in Waskaganish.
We are living in a new era and development is coming into our Cree Territory that will have significant input on Eeyou Istchee lands. The Premier of Quebec has announced an ambitious plan in the development of Northern Quebec; which includes our traditional Cree homeland of Eeyou Istchee. Our Cree Leaders have informed the government of Quebec that prior to any planning in the development of the resources within Eeyou Istchee they will need to involve the communities within the Cree Nation. They must acknowledge the special Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Government of Quebec and the Cree Nation as expressed in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Paix des Braves Agreement and now the Plan Nord framework.
These development projects must also meet our requirements for social and environmental acceptability. Our leadership has negotiated an Agreement with Quebec during this calendar year of 2011. The Framework Agreement represents a major shift in the governance of Eeyou Istchee, a shift where we are moving from exclusion to inclusion. The Plan Nord elaborate partnership with First Nations and Inuit is based on mutual respect in ensuring community well-being and development.
Let’s take Wemindji as an example. The Wemindji local tallyman was approached and became the key player in the discussions regarding his territory prior to the startup and development of an open pit mine with Elenor and Gold Corp Inc, their partner. They are working in fulfilling their needs on training for miners, heavy equipment operators, technical trades, welders and management in the administration. The success of such an approach will require close collaboration among all of the partners involved; for example educational and training institutions, business groups, government, local communities and the labor market partners.
Development of potential mining is in the embryonic stage in Waskaganish. For us to be as successful, Waskaganish will need to be prepared and willing to enter into discussions and embrace a cooperative spirit in the same manner as our fellow Cree Communities like Mistissini and Waswanipi have endeavored to do. In doing so, Waskaganish will have the same job opportunities and training available within our own territory.
I am proud to hear that some of our young people from Waskaganish are already into different training programs. If you are still undecided to go for training or returning to continue your education, let me share with you a story that I read in an Ottawa newspaper. It tells of a great grandmother who returned to Carleton University in Ottawa to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. This lady was 80 years old and she received her degree in Literature this year. You see? You are never too old to go back to school and obtain the education you need to have your dream come true. The sky is the limit and education is available. All you need to do is “go for it” and be ready for the changes that are coming to the north. There is still time to succeed. Remember the poster at the Gathering Place? The “u” in the word SUCCESS is missing and that is “YOU.”
Thank you. Megwetch. God Bless.