Sharing Circle – Moose Factory SessionMay 30, 2023
NAPS Report for May 2023June 1, 2023
May 30, 2023 – MOOSE FACTORY, ON: Yesterday, Moose Cree First Nation served its legal defence against claims made by the Grand Council of Crees of Quebec (“GCC”) asserting Aboriginal rights and title over much of the Moose Cree Homeland in Ontario. The GCC filed its lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2016. The Governments of Canada and Ontario, along with several Ontario First Nations —including Moose Cree First Nation — are defending against the Quebec-based GCC’s claims.
“This was a necessary step to protect our rights and the stewardship over our Homeland that Moose Cree people have exercised for thousands of years,” said Moose Cree First Nation Chief Mervin Cheechoo. “Unfortunately, it was also a sad day. It was the day that we had to call out our neighbours and fellow Cree nations for trying to take what isn’t theirs, while also failing to share the many resources that they do have with their own people.”
The Moose Cree Homeland is an area of approximately 60,000 square kilometres located around the south shores of James Bay. In 1905 and 1906, Moose Cree First Nation and all First Nations with rights in the surrounding areas of northeast Ontario entered the James Bay Treaty (Treaty No. 9) with the Governments of Canada and Ontario. The First Nations now represented by the GCC did not sign Treaty No. 9, because their traditional lands and rights are in Quebec. They instead signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (“JBNQA”) in 1975.
“Moose Cree First Nation and our Quebec Cree neighbours have always had separate and distinct lands,” said Chief Cheechoo. “Cree law requires us to respect our neighbours’ rights and ask permission to use each other’s lands, and the communities on both sides of the border have always done that. We were shocked and disappointed that the Quebec Cree rejected our past history of respect for each other’s territories and instead went to court to lay claim to Moose Cree’s lands. Their actions are very hurtful to the Moose Cree people.”
Chief Cheechoo explained that the Quebec Cree claim raises issues relating to distribution of JBNQA benefits and resources to members of Quebec Cree communities who now live in Ontario. “Many of our Cree neighbours from Quebec have moved to Ontario since the signing of our treaties due to economic conditions and various government programs. Some now live side by side with our own community members and we have always welcomed them as our guests. Because they live in Ontario, however, the GCC and their own First Nations refuse to share benefits and resources with them. Rather than share its own wealth with its own people, the GCC instead came for our resources in Ontario.”
“Our Homeland is Moose Cree First Nation territory,” said Chief Cheechoo. “We are responsible for our lands and we have a duty to manage and protect them—whether that be from proponents, from other governments, or even from the claims of our neighbours. We have a right to be sustained by our lands. Our neighbours should respect our lands and respect us. These are rules we have lived by for millennia as part of our traditional law.”
For more information, please contact:
Jeff Hunter, Executive Services Coordinator