Governance group

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Established in 2008, the Cree Nation Governance Working Group (CNGWG) has been hard at work over the last two years to create a framework that will soon see the creation of a Cree constitution and the eventual expansion of the Cree government.

Appointed as the Chair in 2009 by then Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, current Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said the CNGWG will be making the rounds this fall to every community to inform the Crees about the group and get their input.

“The principal purpose of setting up the working group was to expand Cree Nation governance by establishing a framework for the Cree constitution, setting out the relationship between the eventual expansion of the Cree Nation government, the Cree Bands, the other entities and the federal and provincial governments,” said Coon Come.

The working group was also set up to advise the Grand Council by acting through the executive committee on matters relating to the development of this new model of Cree nation government, Coon Come explained.

According to Coon Come, these matters, all outlined in the New Relationship Agreement, include the development of a new constitution, the relationship of the Cree nation government to the laws of other governments, including those of Cree Bands, application to Cree governments of the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms, tax treatment matters, geographical scope powers, revenues, clarification of the rules and responsibilities of all Cree local and regional entities, review of possible consolidation of various Cree entities and review of the role of the Cree Naskapi Act commission.

“When I responded to Mukash (about the appointment), I told him I was honoured and I was willing to develop a team and a budget so that we could proceed in doing the community consultations. The right and the exercise of self-government of a people is the expression of the fundamental human rights of self-determination. So, self-government and all it entails is the rightful subject matter of the Cree Nation governance group,” said Coon Come.

The CNGWG fortunately does not have to start from scratch when it comes to developing a uniquely Cree constitution and Cree laws as the previous agreements that the Crees have with Quebec and Canada, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Paix des Braves and the most recent New Relationship Agreement.

The CNGWG consists of a large body of individuals from various Cree entities. They include Cree School Board Chair Gordon Blackned, Cree Health Board Chair James Bobbish, Board of Compensation Chair Jack Blacksmith, Cree Trappers Association Chair Alan Jolly, former Chief John Longchap, former Chief Roderick Pachano, Chief Louise Wapachee, Chief Losty Mamianscum, Chief Stanley George, CNYC Youth Chief Stacy Bear, Commissioner Philip Awashish of the Cree Naskapi Act, Doris A. Bobbish of the Cree Women’s Association of Eeyou Istchee and CNGWG coordinator William Mianscum.

After holding two pilot consultations, in Waswanipi in February and another in Whapmagoostui in March, Coon Come said he and the rest of the group are set to endure a rigorous schedule so that every community can be consulted on the expansion of Cree governance.

At these consultations Crees will be asked questions such as what Cree core values and guiding principals they would like to see retained in the future governance model as well as their opinions on issues such as land, rights, obligations, freedom, accountability and money.

Coon Come explained that many of the long-standing issues with Quebec will be addressed with the formation of an expanded Cree government.

“What is very crucial, when you talk about governance, is that the existing regimes exclude the Crees from the governance of the whole of Eeyou Istchee as the government has tried to marginalize us into only Category 1 lands and to small areas around our communities. That regime is wrong so we need new governance structures. New governance structures must be developed for Eeyou Istchee in full consultation with the Cree nation,” said Coon Come.

The tentative schedule for the CNGWG tour: Mistissini (Oct. 19-20), Chisasibi (Oct. 26-27), Washaw Sibi (Nov. 2-3), Waskaganish (Nov. 9-10), Waswanipi (Nov. 15-16), Ouje-Bougoumou (Nov.17-19), Wemindji (Nov. 23-24), Eastmain (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), Nemaska (Dec. 7-8) and Whapmagoostui (Jan. 4-5).

For info on the CNGWG, go to


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