An interview with Paul Gull

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Paul Gull is the current Deputy Chief of Waswanipi as well as its Director of Natural Resources.

Before getting back into municipal politics, Gull also served as Deputy Grand Chief under Ted Moses. He has also served as Chief for the community of Waswanipi.

Before his life in politics Gull was Insurance Liaison Officer at the Board of Compensation and for three years he worked as the Chairman of the Cree School Board. Before running the CSB, he worked as part of the organization for 11 years.

As a young man Gull was part of the Cree Regional Youth Council and became their very first Youth Grand Chief back in 1992.

Midway through his career he returned to school and studied management at the University of Lethbridge and he has also attended college in Timmins, Ontario and in Montreal.

The Nation: Why did you decide to run?

Paul Gull: It’s been a dream I’ve had since Grade 6. I have run for Grand Chief in the past.

TN: What do you think you can bring to the table that the other candidates can’t?

PG: What I can offer that is unique is that we, the Crees, would be closer to the decision-making in whatever is going on in the Cree territory. I would consult the people more closely and I would involve them in the process. I would have an action plan for how they want things done, developed by the people for the people.

One of the biggest problems that we do have is in statistics and population. Our youth population is growing at an enormous rate and they all need jobs and most of them try for jobs in the community. This is something that I would concentrate on.

TN: So it’s economic development that is the big issue for you? How would you address this?

PG: Economic development would be addressed by working with different groups, whether it is the entities, the people around us, Hydro-Québec, the MBJ, and creating jobs within the mining industry and tourism. All of those relate to economic development. I would work closely with the Cree communities.

One of the biggest problems in the Cree world is economic development in our communities. I would address that issue but I would not dictate what needs to be done. I would gather the information from the Cree communities themselves.

One of our biggest problems is that sometimes we don’t feel ownership over the decisions that we make, we feel as though somebody else is making the decision for us. I would like to see more ownership of this decision-making at a community level.

TN: You mentioned MBJ before. There are a lot of problems going on between the Cree Nation and their neighbours, how would you address these problems?

PG: There are problems, but the problem is that we never had a dialogue on these issues. Sometimes they go ahead and make decisions without realizing that it was not their decision in the first place. I think that both sides need to work more closely together when it comes to communication. There are a lot of overlaps within the JBQNA and the Paix des Braves and in what needs to be done. But, the reality of the situation is that we are not leaving, we are not going anywhere and neither are they, so dialogue would be the initial process.

I think that we would be able to get an agreement with them on how we can help each other by staying in the community and helping with what we have. One of the biggest resources that we have is human resources. Though some of us might not be trained, if we give a person a shot I am sure he will know what to do with it. If you give someone a tool and teach them the five steps they need on how to use it, they will be able to use it.

I know lots of young computer technicians who never went to computer classes and were never even taught how to use a computer but they can use a computer. So we have to use the self-taught people because they have something to give back to the communities too.

TN: What do you think is the biggest problem facing the Cree Nation today and how would you address it?

PG: The biggest problem in the Cree Nation today, from what I see in terms of the statistics, is the amount of people in the communities. Right now half of the people who are old enough to work stay on welfare. The other half don’t want to work or try to collect E.I.

It’s not necessarily their fault but that is the reality of the situation, there are just not enough jobs being created in the community. If we don’t have jobs, then we have other problems, like social problems. If we create enough jobs in the community some people are going to realize that they don’t have to go to these anti-social elements that create problems, such as drugs and alcohol abuse in the communities.

I see what is going on in all of the Cree communities and I would say that only about 10% drink and use drugs but they are who we see, they are the visible minority. Social issues become a problem because people don’t have other things to do. We have to start fixing these social problems through our cultural identity. We have to get people back out on the land and regain their strength. I think that is what is needed, even in our social programs. We need to develop these kinds of programs within the Cree Health Board and Public Health. We need to regain trust and strength through the land.

TN: What do you think has been the biggest problem with the current administration?

PG: The current administration, I don’t know. I try and stay away from what they did and what they are doing because of my relationship with the previous administration and possibly going back to the new one.

From what I have read, they haven’t done very much to reach the people on the ground. They try to do the big things and self-govern but nobody really feels that on the ground. Even with self-governance you have to give ownership to the people and that is what is missing.

TN: Do you have any other campaign platform points or anything else that you would like to address?

PG: For right now this is really what my campaign is all about – economic development, jobs and creating new relationships with our neighbours and the other people who we work and live with.

TN: Is there anything specifically that you would want to offer to youth?

PG: Youth have to do their work and get trained and get their jobs done.

TN: The youth are experiencing a lot of problems right now from gangs to drugs and students who feel that the Cree School Board has failed them. What would you do about this?

PG: In terms of gangs and youth, every youth goes through a certain stage of their lives where they are trying to be a part of something. Some of it is peer pressure but it is something that we have to work out in a positive manner rather than playing the blame game. We have to turn things around in terms of those involved in gangs. We have to look at what else they could be doing for the community.

I talk to individuals one-on-one. An alcoholic told me he didn’t know how to get out of it. I said to him, look for your strength that you have inside you, that strength will help you out of your shell of destruction. The thing that you have is the way that you talk, I told him. Where did you learn to talk like that I said. He said residential school – all of my problems come from residential school. I told that he had to talk his way out of that shell that he was in. His strength was the way he could talk and that he should use it for positive things and positive strengths that other people require.

He has now come out of his shell. It took him a long time – he went through a lot of abuse but he has been able to adjust.

In our own society, we realize that things have come in very fast and technology is one of them. The youth know computers like the backs of their hands. I know youth who say that they know it, have done it and have seen all sorts of things. I tell them to study Information Technology when they go to college, but they say they already know it and don’t need it. They say that they don’t really want to go to school because they already get welfare. But, we have to find a way to help our youth find their strengths and take it from there.

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