Aptn

 

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News

(Moose Cree First Nation Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. released a letter to Grand Council Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come (pictured) over Quebec Crees’ claim to Ontario territory)

The chief of the Moose Cree First Nation has sent a scathing open letter to the grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec over an attempt to claim territory in Ontario through court action.

The letter was written by Moose Cree Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. whose community sits on the Ontario side of James Bay. It is addressed to Grand Council of the Crees Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come.

Hardisty’s letter accuses the Grand Council of greed in its attempt to obtain recognition of Aboriginal title over Moose Cree homeland territory through court action before the Ontario Superior Court.

“I do not know what ‘share’ means to you or the Quebec Cree. But in the Moose Cree homeland ‘share’ does not mean, ‘I will keep everything that is mine and also take much of what is yours,’” said Hardisty, in the letter dated June 3. “Yet that is exactly what you are trying to do. This is not acceptable. This is not the Cree way.”

The letter was posted on the Moose Cree First Nation website on Monday.

The Grand Council of the Crees filed court action against Queen’s Park and Ottawa with the Superior Court in March claiming Aboriginal title over about 48,000 square kilometres of territory south of James Bay and west of the Ontario-Quebec border. The court action also claims damages of $495 million for breach of rights.

The move inflamed the Moose Cree whose territory is in the crosshairs of the Grand Council’s legal action.

Hardisty’s letter demands the Grand Council drop its legal claim which he argues is the result of “colonial tactics.” Hardisty alleges in the letter the lawsuit’s true motivation is rooted in the Grand Council’s refusal to use its own resources to care for its people living on the Ontario side.

“You, who now declares a commitment to ‘sharing,’ would not even share with your own people who live in Ontario,” wrote Hardisty. “When asked to share, your solution was to retain legal counsel and demand rights and land in our homeland.”

Hardisty’s letter said the Grand Council settled a lawsuit launched by the MoCreebec, who are part of the Quebec Cree nation, by committing to use its financial and legal heft to force the Ontario government to grant lands and rights to the MoCreebec.

“You are prepared to ‘share’ nothing, but instead attempt to take from your neighbours,” wrote Hardisty. “This is shameful.”

The letter said the Quebec Crees’ modern treaty, signed in 1975, extinguished the rights of other Indigenous peoples who used the territory, including the Algonquin and Moose Cree.

“And you defend this extinguishment to this day, over the continuing objections of your Indigenous neighbours,” said Hardisty, in the letter. “But unlike many other groups, we have never challenged your treaty in court. We have never demanded a say over how lands in Quebec are used.”

Hardisty said the Quebec Crees never attempted to share the billions of dollars reaped from hydro projects and economic development on its vast territory with any other Indigenous nation.

On the contrary, Hardisty accuses the Quebec Crees of harassing Moose Cree hunters who attempt to harvest on the Quebec side. Hardisty said the Moose Cree “regularly” allow MoCreebec people the ability to harvest on Moose Cree territory.

“It seems that sharing, in your view, is strictly a one-way street,” said Hardisty. “You got rich and never once shared a penny of your wealth”

The Grand Council launched the legal claim with the Ontario Superior Court following a July 2015 ruling by the Federal Court which said claims relating to Ontario’s lands must be done through that province’s court system.

The letter was carbon-copied to several Quebec Cree First Nations, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Mushkegowuk Council in Ontario along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, among others.

Coon Come could not be reached for comment.

Hardisty could not be reached for comment.

jbarrera@aptn.ca