Cree Leaders New Year’s Reflections

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As years go, 2015 was a big one. Highlights included the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Grand Council of the Cree and the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. But there were also low points like the Val-d’Or scandal, when it was revealed that a large number of Aboriginal women had been subjected to police violence and sexual assault.

Several Cree leaders participated in the Nation’s annual New Year’s Resolution Guide to share their successes, cherished moments and low points with readers across Eeyou Istchee.


Robert Baribeau: President/CEO – Cree Construction & Development Company and Gestion ADC

Robert Baribeau

Another year has come and gone already and we are getting ready to celebrate the holiday season with our families and friends.

Wow, right? I feel as I get older that the days, months go by in an instant. This year has been a good year for our companies: the Cree Construction and Development Company and Gestion ADC. We have great clients and great partners whom we truly appreciate!

My highlight of the year has to be the fact that our joint venture with the Nemaska Development Corporation – the Nemaska Eenou Companee celebrated its 25th anniversary. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have been part of this great partnership. I want to express on behalf of CCDC all of our thanks for your continued trust and support of our joint venture over the last 25 years! On behalf of the Nemaska Eenou Companee, I would like to thank all of our employees and clients.

In Gestion ADC, we also have had an excellent year. Through our partnerships we have ensured a Cree presence for the long term within the mining sector and this will and is creating many well-paid jobs for the Cree Nation.

When I look back on the 15 years since I joined the CCDC, I am so proud of where we are today. And I thank all those who had the vision that we as a Cree Nation would one day become a major force in the development of our territory and our communities. A big thank you to the great people who made the JBNQA a reality for our people!

Although it has been a great year, like in every family, we have lost some family members. We said good-bye to three of our long-time employees. I want to offer my sympathies to their families and also thank them for all their years of service and dedication.

Next year will be a very special year for CCDC and Gestion ADC – CCDC will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and Gestion ADC will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. I really believe that this success and long history is owed to all those who have been our leaders like the Board of Compensation and Creeco for always keeping faith in our companies. And again the real heroes in my eyes are all of our employees who work so hard and relentlessly to insure our success!

So with this being said I want to wish all of our employees, partners, clients and the entire Cree Nation an awesome holiday season with your friends and loved ones.


Jack Blacksmith: President – CREECO and The Board of Compensation

Jack Blacksmith


2015 was a memorable year for myself, as well as the Board of Compensation and the Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Company (“CREECO”). In January 2015, I was back in the office after being re-elected as Chairman for BOC and President of CREECO in mid-December 2014. I was anxious to meet the challenges that I had witnessed as a Board member, and started the year with a staff meeting. Reassuring employees that their jobs are safe is never a fun task, but it had to be done, as many were feeling unsure due to rumours and stories that they had been hearing regarding the future of BOC/CREECO. My most important advice to them was that they were here to serve the Cree Nation and needed to continue on with business as usual.

In the summer of 2015, we received the results of our audits and the results were outstanding with our companies all posting positive results. Net income of $11.1 million in CREECO is definitely something to be proud of. Air Creebec with its President, Matthew Happyjack, at the helm, and Tanya Pash and their management team, worked hard to build and grow the business through the purchase of three planes during the year. We are very pleased with the Cree Health Board contract, which started in October, and hope that it serves our patients’ needs. Travel is tough enough when you’re healthy, doubly so when you’re fighting illness.

Cree Construction had a good year and several of the joint ventures proved to have strong results. The President, Robert Baribeau, and his team have been working hard to cut costs to avoid having too much overhead. Volume is lower than in the past, but due to stronger cost control, it was a great year.

The Board of Compensation saw its investment portfolio hit all-time highs for the three funds – the market value of the Regular fund (excluding the Insurance portion) was $111.2 million; the Growth fund (created in 1995 and set aside for 30 years) is at $72.9 million; and the Cree Collective Deductible Insurance Program fund is at $14.8 million and is currently being analyzed as to its future.

The Annual General Assembly in Oujé-Bougoumou would have to be a time that I remember with mixed emotions. I was proud to present the results of the Board of Compensation and CREECO, but disappointed in the turn that the Assembly took when it became a personal attack upon my integrity. I feel that it overshadowed the results that we had achieved in 2014-2015, and that wasn’t fair to all of the Board of Directors and our dedicated employees who worked extremely hard to generate those returns for the Cree Nation. I tried my best to remain professional and answered the questions that were directed to me.

The Board of Compensation will not stay still and play dead, be it over CREECO and its subsidiaries or against our work with the Insurance Program, which is an attempt to damage our credibility. Our Board members have a duty to protect the funds and we collectively take that responsibility very seriously. We will do our utmost despite the challenges we face, and will continue representing the Cree Nation, managing the funds to the best of our abilities.

In 2016, I plan to continue where 2015 left off, looking for new ways to improve the results whether by analyzing new business opportunities, assisting our management to secure new contracts in our existing companies, or by improving the efficiency of our existing operations. We look forward to attending Local Annual General Assemblies when requested and having our meetings in the Communities of Eeyou Istchee as much as possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Board Members, staff, consultants and partners for their dedication and would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. Come back refreshed and continue your good work.


Bella Petawabano: Chairperson – Cree Board of Health & Social Services of James Bay

Belle Petawabano

The keyword for 2015 was “access”. Access means that it is easier for our patients to get the health and social services they need. At this time last year, Mistissini Eenouch who are on long-term dialysis spent their first Christmas at home, thanks to the opening of the dialysis clinic in that community. In July, we were proud to add medical imaging, including x-ray, to the range of services available in the Mistissini. Telemedicine is advancing by leaps and bounds in the Cree Health Board, thanks to the ECN fibre-optic infrastructure. After many years of planning, services ranging from eye exams to ultrasounds to telepsychiatry are being deployed across Eeyou Istchee. In October, we inaugurated the Cree Patient Charter with Air Creebec. The charter provides a comfortable, non-stop flight for patients travelling between Chisasibi Hospital and Val-d’Or and Montreal.

In the spring we mourned the victims of the Bussy Lake fire which claimed the lives of David Jimiken, Emmett Coonishish, Chiiwetin Coonishish, Kevin Loon and Charlie Gunner. This terrible accident devastated the families of several Cree Health Board employees. The Cree Health Board is involved in all of life’s highs and lows. Our frontline workers, everyone from doctors and nurses to CHRs, Homecare and Community Workers, walk with you during many of the crises in your lives.

The October 2015 Enquête documentary about the actions of SQ officers in Val-d’Or was a wake-up call to the whole country about the violence and racism suffered by Indigenous women in that city and in many other places. The CBHSSJB joined the Cree Nation Government and other entities in a moratorium on public events in Val-d’Or. Violence against women is a problem that we can’t ignore when it happens in our own communities.

It was with mixed feelings of sadness and pride that I joined Virginia Wabano at the blessing of the ground of the future Women’s Shelter in Waswanipi in November. A second shelter is being built in Waskaganish. These will be the first women’s shelters in Eeyou Istchee and will provide women and children in danger with a temporary safe haven as well as healing programs and support. The Cree Health Board is proud to be a partner in this initiative with Cree Justice, the CNG, CWEIA and the Cree Nations of Waswanipi and Waskaganish.

I am very happy to announce that we are planning a major regional assembly on health, with the theme: “Shaping the Future, Together”. Tentatively scheduled for April 2016, this will be an opportunity for communities to help chart the path for the Cree Health Board for the next 10 years. We will share details with the Nation and other media, including the location and exact dates of the Assembly, in the coming weeks. Remember that you can always call upon your Community Representative on our Board of Directors. You can also find us online at, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the keyword “Creehealth”.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and all the staff of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, we wish you all miyupimaatisiiun (wellbeing) and chiyaameihtamuun (living together in harmony) throughout the Christmas season of 2015 and in the New Year 2016.

Violet Pachano: President – Niskamoon Corporation

We wish everyone in Eeyou Istchee Season’s Greetings! May the holiday season bring you all happiness and peace.

Best wishes for the New Year 2016!


Abel Bosum: Negotiator, Cree-Quebec Relations – Cree Nation Government

Abel Bosum with family

Abel Bosum (right) with son Curtis (OJ Chief) and wife Sophie

1) What was your biggest high point from 2015?

This past year there were high points from the perspective of the work I have been involved in and also high points on a personal level. On the work front, the high points include our finalizing the Baril-Moses Dispute Agreement through which we resolved a long-standing issue with Quebec having to do with the respect for an agreement regarding Cree rights outside the JBNQA territory. We have also been able to advance a couple of IBAs – one for Nemaska related to a lithium mining project, and one for Oujé-Bougoumou related to an iron ore project. In both cases we were able to incorporate into those IBAs what are called “transformation centres” which are basically plants to further process the ores and which will be located outside of the boundaries of Eeyou Istchee, but still central to the mining projects.

I am very honoured to have the opportunity to have been involved in an agreement between the Cree Health Board and our Cree Nation Government to establish women’s shelters in Eeyou Istchee. And, of course, we have continued to make progress in implementing our Governance Agreement with Quebec.

On a more personal level, as most people know, there were elections in Oujé-Bougoumou this past summer and Curtis Bosum, my son, was elected Chief. I cannot describe the pride I feel for Curtis’ achievement. In fact, it really goes much deeper than pride. To see my son developing the maturity and the strength of character to take on one of the most difficult tasks anyone can have in the Cree Nation, and to have been chosen by the people to carry the torch forward has touched me beyond belief.

To see this in one’s son makes all the work, all the struggles, all the challenges absolutely worth it in a way it is difficult to describe. We often get congratulations for our efforts, and people tell us sometimes how much our efforts are appreciated, but when your own child decides to follow in your footsteps and decides in some way to model themselves after you, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that either as a parent or as a Cree representative. That is the best affirmation anyone could ever ask for, and I am so looking forward to seeing what he will accomplish over the next four years.

2) What was the greatest low point or loss that you/your organization or department?
There is no question in my mind that the low points this past year for me were the passing away of two Cree individuals who were so dedicated to our Cree Nation and so committed to making a contribution to building a stronger Cree Nation. I am referring, of course, to the passing of Lawrence Jimiken and Gerti Murdoch. Each of them, in their own very special way, was an inspiration to so many of us and they were important models to our youth. Whenever there are Cree Nation gatherings I somehow I expect that I will see them there. I will miss them both terribly, as will so many people throughout Eeyou Istchee.

3) What are your goals for the New Year?

My personal goal for the new year, in addition to continuing with some of the work we have done over the past few years, is to focus my efforts on trying to find acceptable and beneficial solutions to the various territorial overlap issues with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the Innu, Attikamek and Algonquin Nations and with the Inuit. I am confident that our peoples, sitting at a table Indigenous-to-Indigenous, will find creative and harmonious solutions that we can all be proud of and which will work to everyone’s benefit.
I am also looking forward to being involved in getting a new Cree entity off the ground. We have established a Cree Community Foundation, which will undertake a range of fundraising activities on behalf of the Cree Nation Government. The CNG has just recently been officially recognized by the federal government as a qualified and certified organization for receiving charitable donations. Our new Community Foundation will be used to fundraise for worthy Cree causes including, for example, the ongoing operations of the Aanischaaukaamikw Cree Cultural Institute. This will be an exciting new addition to the Cree Nation’s organizational landscape and should produce some very interesting results.

4) Is there anything else you would like to share?

It has been my privilege to work with the Cree Nation for nearly four decades. Over this time, I have been witness to the many agreements our leaders have pioneered.

Taken as a whole these agreements have created a new landscape for our Cree Nation and for our communities. Together, the cumulative impact of all our agreements has put the Cree Nation potentially at the centre of economic activities in northern Quebec and created the possibility for us to be the major economic force in the region. These agreements are not just documents, they are tools really. They are tools to achieve our visions. So I would like to encourage everyone, particularly our youth, to study these agreements, to learn what is in them and to learn how to use them.

Our Cree Nation is at a crossroads, and the path we take over the next few years will determine whether the vision of a healthy and prosperous Indigenous Cree Nation will be realized or not. I am optimistic that our people, and especially our youth, will rise to the occasion and take our Cree Nation to new heights and to an even brighter future. And, as we take on these larger challenges I hope that we can also make sure to take care of each other in our communities and in our families so that our journey will be a healthy one.

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