Cree Nation lends support as MoCreebec pushes for official recognition

Efforts for official recognition by a small group of landless Quebec Cree living on the Ontario side of James Bay moved forward last week as the Cree Nation Government threw its weight behind a plan that would see MoCreebec become the 11th Quebec Cree community.

MoCreebec consists of Cree living in Moose Factory and Moosonee areas of Ontario

Allan Jolly is interviewed in 2014 about MoCreebec's struggle for recognition. 'We are Eeyou, our heritage is Eeyou Istchee,' said Jolly, the chief of MoCreebec. 'We identify ourselves as Eeyouch. We are proud to say that Eeyou Istchee is also in Ontario.' (CBC)

Efforts for official recognition by a small group of landless Quebec Cree living on the Ontario side of James Bay moved forward last week as the Cree Nation Government threw its considerable weight behind a plan that would see MoCreebec become the 11th Quebec Cree community.

"We are Eeyou, our heritage is Eeyou Istchee," said Allan Jolly, the chief of MoCreebec. "We identify ourselves as Eeyouch. We are proud to say that Eeyou Istchee is also in Ontario."

MoCreebec is an association of several hundred Quebec Cree from various, mostly coastal, communities who have, because of residential school, work or love, settled since the 1930's and 40's in the Moose Factory and Moosonee area in Ontario. The community is not recognized under the Indian Act as a band and has been fighting for official recognition from various groups for many years.

A resolution recognizing MoCreebec as the 11th Cree community and promising to "support the development and self-determination of MoCreebec Eeyoud" was passed last Thursday at a meeting of the board of directors of the Cree Nation Government in Chibougamau, Que.

Bill Namagoose, the executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees, says that MoCreebec people 'are part of the Cree Nation. They just happen to be living on the Ontario side.' (CBC)
"We've always supported and recognized our own people," said Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees. Namagoose says there is now a lot of lobbying to be done on behalf of MoCreebec people with the federal and Ontario governments.

"MoCreebec people are part of the Cree Nation. They just happen to be living on the Ontario side," said Namagoose.

In 2013, MoCreebec dropped a decade-long court case against the Cree Nation Government seeking benefits under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). Section 3.2.7 of the JBNQA cuts off benefits to anyone who has been outside of the Cree territory for 10 consecutive years. It's referred to as the 10-year clause.

"The land on the Ontario side is traditionally Cree territory," said Namagoose this week. "It's very clear we have a mandate to help our people regardless of where they live."

The push for recognition is happening against the backdrop of the Grand Council of the Crees filing a lawsuit in 2016 seeking "shared" aboriginal title to about 48,000 square kilometres of land in northeastern Ontario, which they say has never been recognized under any treaty and was part of the original Cree land claim filed in 1989.

The James Bay Cree are also asking the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario to award them $495 million in compensation for breaches of their rights to this region in Ontario.

Namagoose says the two issues are unrelated.

A request for comment on MoCreebec efforts to become the 11th Quebec Cree community was not returned by the Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation of Ontario.

With files from Stefon Rabbitskin