Cree leaders work to calm fears over surprising $4.7B infrastructure deal – by Susan Bell, Betsy Longchap and Christopher Herodier (CBC News North – February 20, 2020)

Cree leaders in Quebec are focused on reassuring a jittery population after announcing a far-reaching economic development agreement with Quebec regarding massive infrastructure improvements in the territory over the next 30 years and, very likely, more resource extraction projects.

The $4.7-billion Grande Alliance project was signed Monday by Cree Grand Chief Abel Bosum and Quebec Premier François Legault. It proposes a deep sea port, an improved and extended road network and a railway to be built up to the most northern reaches of Cree territory.

The deal came as a surprise to many Cree and had people expressing suspicion, worry and support for the deal on social media. People raised questions about what it will mean, how the land and animals would be affected, and how they will be consulted moving forward.

“I think people are still concerned about what happened [in the] 1970s [when] Quebec started building dams without Cree consent or even clear acknowledgement of our rights. But times have changed,” said Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Cree Nation Government.

He was referring to the unannounced attempt by Quebec to construct a massive hydro-electric dam in the 1970s — known as the James Bay Project, which led to the ensuing legal battle and eventual court-ordered signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which is considered the first modern treaty in Canada.

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