Abel Bosum takes over at Cree AGA in Whapmagoostui

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Newly elected Grand Chief Abel Bosum’s presided over his first Annual General Assembly as Grand Chief August 1-3 in Whapmagoostui, where the Nation spoke to new Cree leaders about his election victory.

Bosum said he felt validated by the response at the AGA to some of his election platform priorities.

“There were a lot of people talking about what was important to them,” said Bosum. “I think people were looking for some sort of change and I hope I can bring about that change. I’m not putting anyone down but doing things a bit differently. Engaging people more where it needs to be and bringing issues and solutions home that way.”










Bosum felt the AGA went well even though there were some mishaps on his part. “I noticed that people were very respectful, happy and full of laughter at my mistakes,” Bosum said with a laugh. “I called some people by the wrong names. I’m thankful everyone had a sense of humour.”

Bosum said he looked forward to his term as Grand Chief and was busy putting together a team to implement his election promises, including how to improve services to the Cree communities. He wants to ensure people are fully informed so that they “are a part of the governance process.” Governance will be on the agenda at the next council/board meeting, he noted.

“There will more than likely be an increase in staff to ensure this all happens,” Bosum stated.

Executive Director Bill Namagoose made a presentation on the Cree Nation Governance Agreement and the Cree Constitution at the AGA. “We are the strongest when we invoke our rights in responding to governments and weakest when we squabble amongst ourselves,” Namagoose said. He went on to warn that care should be taken with special interest groups demanding seats on the Cree Nation Government.

“We must limit the power to govern only to those that are elected by the Cree people at local and national levels,” he stated, adding that representatives must also be held accountable and transparent at all times.

Bosum told the Nation he sees economic development and job creation as one of the Cree Nation’s priorities. He wants Cree people and communities to have the ability to access contracts in Eeyou Istchee.

“Besides putting together programs to help local businesses, the small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs, I also see us sitting down with the Government of Quebec to look at those legislations, particularly the Procurement Legislation,” said Bosum.

“Public tendering is not helping us and is not allowing us to build capacity. We need to negotiate some amendments to that legislation to make JBNQA section 28.10 dealing with provincial contracts and employment a reality. Right now we are having to negotiate on a case by case basis. We need to find a better way.”

Bosum wants to help Cree entrepreneurs obtain the necessary qualifications and permits that would enable them to bid for contracts without having to work under a general contractor or consultant. “A good portion of the contracts should be awarded to Cree businesses and communities,” he said.


Social priorities

Alongside Bosum’s economic priorities, the Grand Council has also created a committee that will study social issues. Noting that Quebec has requested a social development plan from the Cree Nation, Bosum said the GCC is gathering information on currently available services and resources for a report to be issued in September.

“From that report we will be able to see what’s missing and from there we hope to put together a social development plan that we would present to the government this fall,” said Bosum.

A major file is the provincial inquiry looking at relations with Indigenous Peoples and certain public services. GCC Director of Quebec Relations Melissa Saganash said phase 2 will be starting in September and continue until late October. While they will be talking with entities and organizations, individual Indigenous men and women can also participate. More information is available at: www.cerp.gouv.qc.ca.

Housing availability and affordability was another concern at the AGA. In particular, trappers are vulnerable, Bosum observed.

“Trappers are people we expect to live out on the land, occupy the land and at the same time we expect them to pay for their houses and other services in the community” he said. “With the kind of income they have it’s almost impossible to expect that from anybody.”

To assist them, Bosum will meet with Cree entities that provide services for the trappers to “get a grasp of what we have. Then I want to invite Quebec to the table to see how we can increase the trappers’ level of income.”

Grand Chief Abel Bosum and Deputy Grand Chief Mandy Gull were sworn in to their new positions August 2. Both Bosum and Gull thanked their spouses and the many people who supported them which of course included the Cree who voted.

They also acknowledged the other candidates in this year’s election. There was more than one standing ovation for both Bosum and Gull. It was the honeymoon start of their terms, and many attending the AGA were optimistic that the next four years see many goals realized for the Cree Nation.

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