Quebec, James Bay Cree announce $4.7-billion development deal – by Christopher Curtis (Montreal Gazette – February 17, 2020)

The vision for the program that includes rail networks and wildlife habitat protection “came from us,” a Cree leader says.

Premier François Legault and the James Bay Cree have signed a $4.7-billion deal that will extend rail networks north, protect new wildlife habitats against development and partner on new infrastructure projects.

The Grand Alliance is a “new chapter” in the relationship between both governments, Legault said Monday. An extended rail network means more minerals can be extracted from mines in the boreal forest and shipped to American and German markets. By increasing rail capacity, Legault says Quebec will offer North American and European businesses an alternative to Chinese imports.

“It will create well-paying jobs in the Cree community but also foster a new generation of Cree entrepreneurs,” said Legault, who called the deal a model of nation-to-nation governance.

The alliance, he says, balances environmental protections with economic development. “We, the leaders of the Cree nation, are here today not to make a sacrifice or surrender,” said Abel Bosum, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees.

“We’re not forced to make a concession. We have the right to choose. The vision for this program came from us. It represents our vision of sustainable development.”

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