Protest over construction tendering results in two arrests

Share Button

A nine-day peaceful protest calling for Cree entities to prioritize contracts to Cree companies in Eeyou Istchee resulted in two brothers being arrested September 6 in Mistissini.

The protest started when an electrical company from Chibougamau showed up at a Mistissini construction site to work on 39 new housing units commissioned by the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB).

We approached the workers on the site and told them, ‘You will not do any electrical work today,’” said Timothy Matoush, owner of Mistissini’s Matoush-Grimard Inc.

Matoush said Cree entities should give preference to Cree companies in their own communities.

He and his brother, Albert, were arrested after a confrontation occurred between them and employees of the Chibougamau company. The brothers were charged with causing mischief and disturbing the peace.

They were released with conditions almost immediately. The charges against both brothers have since been withdrawn, according to Eeyou Eenou Police Force.

But the brothers’ protest struck a nerve in the community. In a Facebook post following the incident, Matoush spoke of his arrest and his willingness to price match the outside company that underbid him for the electrical work on the new housing units.

“The… [Cree] owner [of the company] George Petawabano approached me on Sunday at the construction site asking me why I didn’t negotiate to match the price,” Matoush wrote. “I told him that I did tell Jeff Spencer and his partner that I was willing to match the price. I was surprised that George the Cree owner… wasn’t even aware that I tried to match the price.”

According to CBHSSJB interim executive director Daniel St-Amour, it’s not their responsibility to do subcontracting. “The Cree Health Board is not involved in decisions regarding subcontractors,” St-Amour told the Nation. “The contract to build 13 triplexes in Mistissini was awarded to Eskan Company, and it is up to Eskan to choose appropriate subcontractors.”

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) has a clause that references Cree priority for contracts, under section 28.10.3, which reads, “The governments shall take all reasonable measures to establish Cree priority in respect to employment and contracts.”

The Nation contacted Eskan Company, but they did not comment on the issue.

Mistissini Chief Richard Shecapio said that prioritizing Cree companies in the awarding of subcontracts is an ongoing issue in Cree communities, and he’s been voicing this matter to the Cree Nation Government.

“Still today, we continue to talk about the specific section,” Shecapio said. “We haven’t seen that materialized, we continue to see these companies that operate in the communities, and partnerships of their choice, it’s the Cree enterprises that lose out.”

Shecapio believes it’s important that Cree entities and Cree communities be part of the discussion when it comes to the JNBQA clause of Cree priority and contracts. There needs to be a common understanding and ways to benefit the Cree companies.

“If not, we’re just going to continue with the problems we’ve seen in the communities in the past,” he said.

Shecapio noted that this specific contract is not from the Cree Nation of Mistissini, and said that their administration in Mistissini has a by-law that prioritizes Cree companies. They’ve also worked with Matoush-Grimard Inc. in the past.

“That by-law is a fair by-law in my opinion,” said Shecapio. “The by-law provides an opportunity for Cree participation.”


Share Button

Comments are closed.