Cree Nation calls for Paix des Braves-like body to oversee implementation of inquiry recommendations

The Cree Nation says recommendations from the Viens Commission will gather 'dust on a shelf' if the province of Quebec doesn't mandate a committee with teeth to oversee it.

Commission investigated the way Indigenous people in Quebec are treated by 6 public services

The 40 recommendations stemming from the Viens Commission centre on improving Quebec police relations with Indigenous people. (Submitted by Commission d’enquête CERP)

The Cree Nation says recommendations from the Viens Commission will gather "dust on a shelf" if the province of Quebec doesn't mandate a committee with teeth to oversee it.

The Viens Commission was set up in December 2016 to look into how Indigenous people are treated by six public services in Quebec, after the Radio Canada program Enquête aired a report alleging SQ officers in Val d'Or systematically mistreated Indigenous women. 

An oversight committee is a "critical part to ensuring that this inquiry is given its full effect and lives up to the expectations of Indigenous peoples in this province," said Melissa Saganash, director of Quebec-Cree relations for the Cree Nation government, as she and other Cree leaders testified at the final day of public hearings Friday in Val d'Or. 

Cree Nation Grand Chief Abel Bosum and Cree Nation executive director Bill Namagoose, who appeared alongside Saganash along with representatives from the Cree Board of Health and Social Services, have ideas on how to go forward.

They point to the Paix des Braves agreement — signed with the provincial government in 2002 — as a blueprint of how the commission could lead to real reconciliation in the province and real change in the lives of Indigenous people in Quebec.

"We have 45 years of experience in treaty implementation and it wasn't until we signed the Paix des Braves that we found a formula that works," said Bosum.

Bosum said the Paix des Braves model includes high-level representation from both Quebec and the Cree Nation that meet regularly to identify problems, propose solutions and oversee the implementation of those solutions.

40 recommendations

The Cree delegation tabled a total of 40 recommendations, or solutions, that it says are key to making real changes for Indigenous people in Quebec. 

They include an immediate end to the criminalization of homelessness and a complete reorganization of the model of police services in Quebec away from a "repressive model" of policing and toward a relationship-based model.

The recommendations also call for the acknowledgement of the "existence of systemic racism within the Sûreté du Québec" and the "end to the culture of police impunity."

There is also a call for the creation of an independent police review board, such as exists elsewhere in Canada.

This is about investing in people.- Cree Nation Grand Chief Abel Bosum

The Cree say they would like to see five days of cultural training made mandatory for any police officers who work in Indigenous communities.

They also say the training should be developed in close consultation with regional and local Indigenous leadership.

Several of the recommendations tabled by the Cree delegation Friday point to the issue of homelessness in Indigenous communities across Quebec, saying it is a key cause of the tensions between Indigenous people and police in urban centres like Val d'Or.

The recommendation says "significant new resources" must be found to remedy the housing crisis in Indigenous communities either on or off reserve.

"This is about investing in people," said Bosum. "A lot of people tend to think that money is going up to communities and it'll be wasted or mismanaged.

"The Cree Nation has spent a great deal of time in trying to be accountable to whatever we get. Whatever we do, we are contributing to Quebec's economy."