MoCreebec Chief Allan Jolly speaks on CNG land claim controversy

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Controversy continues to brew over the Cree Nation Government’s lawsuit seeking recognition of its claim to traditional rights over land west of the Ontario border. Now, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) council, formed of northern Ontario First Nations on the Treaty 9 territory in question, and the Moose Cree First Nation have filed to be listed in the CNG court case as a defendant and an intervenor respectively.

Adding to the drama was a rumour that MoCreebec First Nation was going to be expelled or voluntarily withdraw from NAN because of its ties to the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee. While a resolution to that effect was in fact tabled by Moose Cree Chief Patricia Faries at a NAN meeting on May 9, cooler heads prevailed in the end and MoCreebec has retained its seat, for now.

“It was a little bit premature,” observed MoCreebec Chief Allan Jolly.

MoCreebec Chief Allan Jolly Jolly explained that resolutions to permit the council to amend its bylaws and allow for the expulsion of members had to be voted on and passed before the resolution to expel MoCreebec could reach the table. He asked permission to express his views before the first resolution went to vote.

“They allowed me to speak and I presented MoCreebec’s stance, objecting to the resolutions being proposed,” he said. “After I was done it became clear that a lot of chiefs didn’t like the idea of expelling anybody.”

Jolly told the Nation that deliberation on the initial resolution continued for hours before a vote was taken. Once everyone had the opportunity to voice their concerns, the resolution did not garner enough support to be passed.

“They needed to get a support of 66%,” he said. “In the end, they only got about 42%. The motion was defeated so that basically nullified the other two resolutions. That pretty well put an end to the matter for the time being.”

Jolly emphasized that he has great respect for all the chiefs at the table. “But I have an even deeper respect for some of them now,” he said. “People had the courage to stand up for their personal beliefs. One Ojibway Chief even said, ‘This goes against the way I think as an Anishinaabe.’”

Asked to speak to the sentiments of the Ontario First Nations opposed to the lawsuit, Jolly stressed the complexity of the issue and the unique impact it could have on the various parties in play.

“This is a very complex situation and it affects each of us differently. The general feeling seems to be anger. Moose Cree in particular are the ones right along the land claim so they’re the most affected by it. They look at it as the Cree coming to steal their land,” he said.

“NAN is concerned about it from a Treaty 9 territory perspective. Since it’s Treaty 9 area, they feel they’re responsible to speak on behalf of everyone in that territory.”

While Jolly says he excused himself from meetings specifically regarding the land claim, citing conflict of interest, he confirmed that the Moose Cree have filed to be entered into the CNG lawsuit as defendants while NAN has applied to be listed as intervenors. The hearings for both of these motions should happen in early June.

“Only then will we know exactly what the conditions or parameters will be, and if they’ll even be allowed in as defendants and intervenors,” he said.

MoCreebec aerial shot 1

Jolly admitted that while MoCreebec is caught between a rock and a hard place, it does represent an opportunity for his community to finally receive official recognition from the Ontario and Canadian governments. He hopes to see a diplomatic resolution and willingness from the First Nations who feel their land is at stake to sit down with the CNG and discuss potential solutions.

“We’re kind of caught right in the middle of this whole thing. In one sense, it’s a good thing to bring things to a head. We want to go forward with the idea of having a community with some connection to the JBNQA, and hopefully the land claim would create the environment where we could resolve our situation,” said Jolly.

“We rarely see the political will to work together and change things; it takes things like this to force the issue – whether it’s an out-of-court settlement or court proceedings running their course. I’m hopeful. I think something can be done and I’m hoping there’ll be more openness to at least try and sit down and discuss this whole thing with the Cree and Taykwa Tagamou [Nation], Moose Cree and eventually NAN.”

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