CBC Digital Archives

James Bay Cree experience dramatic change

In 1971 northern Quebec became a political battleground as the provincial government and the James Bay Cree faced off over a hydroelectric mega-project. Quebec sees the James Bay Project as the key to future prosperity. The Cree believe the massive development will destroy their traditional way of life. Their tense relationship will continue for decades.

The Cree and Inuit reap the benefits of the land claims agreement. In their communities, nice homes with satellite dishes replace shacks while new schools and modern healthcare clinics are built. But the traditional way of life declines as the gigantic hydroelectric project floods vast areas of the land. Natives become concerned about polluted drinking water, flooded trap lines and mercury contamination in fish stocks. Social problems such as alcohol abuse increase in the communities.
• Stones and soil in the flooded areas of northern Quebec contain naturally occurring mercury that dissolves into the water and enters the food chain. Mercury is a poison that can damage the nervous system and the brain. Almost 15 per cent of the James Bay Cree had above-normal mercury levels in 1988. By 1994, only 2.7 per cent of the population had high mercury levels. The decline was attributed to educational programs in Cree communities.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1985
Guest(s): John Ciaccia, Billy Diamond, Albert Diamond, Georges Filotas, Teddy Moses, Harry Tulugak
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Tom Kennedy
Duration: 4:33

Last updated: February 11, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

A Lost Heritage: Residential Schools extra cl...

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

The Battle for Aboriginal Treaty Rights

It's a battle over the land and its resources. The fight has taken place on the land, in the c...

Davis Inlet: Innu Community in Crisis

"We are a lost people." That description by an Innu chief seemed fitting when a shocking video...

A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

1981: Native people fight for constitutional ...

Thousands of native people stage demonstrations over the omission of native rights in the new ...

1992: Inuit vote for new territory of Nunavut

In an historic land claim settlement, Inuit in the eastern Arctic endorse the creation of Nuna...