|History of the Agreement
In the 1800s the lands that are a part of the modern agreement were held in the domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company until 1868 when under the Rupert’s Land Act the area was ceded to Canada. ‘In 1870, by Imperial Order-in-Council, it was stipulated that the government must obtain the surrender of Indian title to the lands that formerly composed this domain.’ Through two boundary extensions in 1898 and 1912, the lands were transferred to the Province of Quebec, with a key condition of the latter transfer being that Quebec recognise the rights of Native inhabitants on these lands and that, in return, the Native people release such rights to Quebec. The commitment to recognise these rights was, however, not honoured until 1975.
In 1971, the Government of Canada announced its intention to embark on the James Bay hydro-electric project that involved blocking and diverting several of the rivers that drained into James Bay. In that same year, the James Bay Development Corporation was initiated to encourage and develop all the territory’s resources, including hydro, forestry, mining and tourism.
In 1972 the Quebec Association of Indians applied to the Quebec Superior Court for an injunction to stop all construction in the region. The injunction was granted on the grounds that the government had committed itself to settling Native title claims, but the decision was later overturned. However, the initiative and determination of the Native peoples led to negotiations with an aim toward a land claim agreement.
Components of the Agreement
The first stage of the process was an agreement-in-principle signed in 1974 between the governments of Canada and Quebec, the Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec and the Quebec Hydro-Electric Commission (Hydro-Quebec). The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was then signed on November 11, 1975. Signatories included the Government of Quebec, the James Bay Energy Corporation, the James Bay Development Corporation, Hydro-Quebec, the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec), the Northern Inuit Association, and the Government of Canada.
The total compensation package was valued at (CDN)$225 million paid over 20 years by the Canadian and Quebec governments to the Cree Regional Authority and the Makivik Corporation on behalf of the Inuit. In addition to settling Native land claims and providing financial compensation, the agreements defined Native rights and established regimes for future relations between Natives and non-natives in the region and among local, regional, provincial and federal governments. The land settlement involved 5,543 square kilometres of settlement land for the Cree and 8,151 square kilometres of settlement land for the Inuit as well as exclusive harvesting rights over an additional 15,000 square kilometres of land. In return, the Cree and Inuit surrendered Aboriginal title to approximately 981,610 square kilometres of the James Bay/Ungava territory.
The Land Regime
Under the agreement the territory was divided into three categories. Category I lands define areas for the exclusive use and benefit of Aboriginal people. Category II lands belong to the province, but Native governments share management for hunting, fishing and trapping, tourism development and forestry and Native people have exclusive hunting, fishing and trapping rights. Category III forms a special type of Quebec public lands, in which both Native and non-native people may hunt and fish subject to agreed regulations. On these lands, Aboriginal groups have exclusive rights to harvest certain aquatic species and fur-bearing mammals and have the right to participate in the administration and development of land. Commercial developers also have specific rights to develop resources on these lands, but the federal or provincial governments have an obligation to assess the impact of those resource developments.
Environment and Social Protection
The provisions in the agreement relating to environmental impact and social effects of development establish two advisory committees who have the task of reviewing environmental issues, policies and regulations as well as advising governments.
Local Government Provisions
Under Quebec law, Inuit communities are incorporated as municipalities with specific powers delegated to them under Quebec legislation. As part of the Agreement, the Kativik regional government, the Makivik Corporation and the Cree Regional Authority were established.
In 1984 the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act was proclaimed, pursuant to s 9 of the Agreement, recognising local Indian self-government powers, and putting in place a system of land management.
Under the Agreement Cree and Inuit school boards are established with a special mandate and powers which enable them to adopt culturally appropriate educational programs. The school boards are jointly funded by Canada and Quebec.
Hunting, Fishing and Trapping
Certain rights are granted under the agreement for harvesting wildlife. In order to administer review and regulate wildlife harvesting, a coordinating committee is set up which comprises members from the provincial and federal governments and representatives of the three native groups.
Support for the establishment of Native organisations promoting renewable resource development, and arts and crafts was among one of the objectives of the Agreement.
Health and Social Services
The Agreement transferred the responsibility for health and social services for residents of Category I lands to Native agencies established by the province.
The Federal Role
The agreement changed the face of federal involvement in Northern Quebec shifting its responsibility from providing services to subsidising them. Services are now administered by Native local governments and the province of Quebec
Up to 12 Complimentary Agreements have been made since 1975, amending and adding to the original Agreement.|