Inquiry into Quebec-Indigenous relations gets underway in Val-d’Or

Share Button

Quebec’s Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous peoples and certain public services in Quebec is more than just a mouthful of words. It’s an opportunity to get things right, by ensuring that Indigenous people in Quebec receive fair treatment from provincial government, police and public institutions.

Hearings with Commissioner Jacques Viens started June 5 in Val-d’Or and will continue to June 20. Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come is one of three lead witnesses, alongside AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard and the head of Quebec Native Women Viviane Michel. He will speak on June 14. The commission will also hear from Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, Lac Simon Chief Adrienne Jérôme, Edith Cloutier, Executive Director of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre, Grand Chief Constant Awashish of the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw and Val-d’Or mayor Pierre Corbeil.

The Nation had the opportunity to ask Grand Chief Coon Come what his role in the commission entails and what First Nations throughout Quebec can hope to see come out of the process.

“My role in this first testimony will be to introduce to Commissioner Viens our history, both traditional and political, our structures, culture and traditions, and of course, the people of Eeyou Istchee,” Coon Come said. “This will be an opportunity for us to introduce the commission to entities like the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, the Cree School Board, the Eeyou Eenou Police Force as well as our associations: CWEIA, CNACA and COTA.”

Coon Come noted that it is important to keep in mind that the commission is equipped with the power to subpoena. He stressed the fact that the introduction of the Cree Nation to the commission is not necessarily limited to June 14 as representatives of Eeyou Istchee could be requested to appear at any point throughout the inquiry, according to Viens’ discretion.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come addresses a press conference

Regional Chief  Ghislain Picard and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come

Asked to explain what the inquiry could mean to the James Bay Cree and First Nations across the province, the Grand Chief remembered the stories of First Nations women who came forward and shared their stories of abuse and spoke to the reality of life as an Indigenous individual living in Quebec.

“Thirty-eight allegations of abuse at the hands of police officers, brought to light by a handful of Indigenous women who were brave enough to stand up, is what brought this commission to life,” said Coon Come. “The reality of Indigenous people must be considered and mechanisms of justice capable of responding to these realities will also have to be considered if there is any sincerity in wanting to address the issues of systemic discrimination brought forth.”

The inquiry is not limited only to police services, it will also include correctional, justice, health and social services as well as youth protection. “This is the time for the Indigenous community to shed light on the injustices, discrimination and abuse experienced by our people,” Coon Come stated.

“For this commission to instill changes as a result of its efforts, participation will be necessary,” he concluded. “This is an opportunity to hear solutions to the challenges encountered by our people and any change that occurs because of it must consider the solutions brought forward by Indigenous communities.”

Share Button

Comments are closed.