The Superior Court of Quebec declares the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act violates Cree rights under the JBNQA

            NEMASKA, EEYOU ISTCHEE, April 3 /CNW Telbec/ - In a lengthy decision
rendered upon a motion submitted by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou
Istchee) and the Cree Regional Authority, the Honorable Nicole Bédard of the
Quebec Superior Court has declared the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
inapplicable to Northern Quebec.
            In this decision, the Superior Court reaffirms the prevalence of the
treaty with the Crees, the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement
(JBNQA), over any incompatible federal or provincial laws, and the Court
confirms the constitutionally protected right of the Crees to "fully
participate ... in the management, control and regulation of the development
of the territory."
            Since the CEA Act does not recognize the special status of the Crees and
does not use the impact on Cree rights as the basis for the assessment of
development projects, the Court has declared it inapplicable in Northern
Quebec and in violation of the constitutionally affirmed JBNQA.
            "We are extremely satisfied that the Court has agreed with us that the
CEA Act violated our treaty right" declared Grand Chief Matthew Mukash. The
Grand Chief added "This decision strongly reaffirms the principle of the
prevalence of our treaty rights in the James Bay territory, as well as our
guaranteed participation in the management, control and regulation of all
development throughout the territory."
            The GCCEI/CRA had asked not only that CEAA be declared inapplicable, but
also that the federal assessment and review process provided for under the
1975 JBNQA be substituted therefore. The federal review process under the
JBNQA had been set aside by the Federal Court of Appeal in 1993 with regard to
hydroelectric development in the territory, and the GCCEI/CRA was seeking that
this be examined again by the Court. The Quebec Superior Court has however
decided not to overturn the previous 1993 decision of the Federal Court of
Appeal on this matter. The GCCEI/CRA intends to maintain its position that
both federal and provincial assessment processes provided for under the JBNQA
apply to development projects in James Bay and will be seeking a decision to
this effect before the Quebec Court of appeal.
            Nevertheless, the decision released on Friday vindicates the Crees' long
standing position that the CEA Act did not take into account their treaty
rights and was therefore in contradiction with the JBNQA. Though requested to
correct this situation many times through negotiations, the federal
authorities had rather decided to impose CEA on the Crees in disregard of the
terms of the treaty. The Court has now ordered Canada to respect the terms of
the treaty.
            This decision does not affect the on-going review of the Eastmain 1A -
Rupert Diversion Project as this is being carried out under a special
agreement among the Crees, Canada and Quebec. This agreement calls for a
review to be carried out under the CEA that also takes into account the
provisions related to the protection of the Crees, their way of life and
economy, under Section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
/For further information: Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, (819) 673-2600, 
Bill Namagoose, Executive Director, (613) 761-1655/