Since 1975, the Cree Nation has signed more than 75 agreements with Federal and Provincial governments. This section contains summaries of the 7 key agreements.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed on November 11, 1975 by the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, the Inuit of Nunavik, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and Hydro-Quebec. It was negotiated after lengthy court proceedings by the Cree and Inuit to oppose the massive James Bay Hydroelectric Project announced by Quebec in 1970.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is the basic Charter of Cree Rights. It is the first modern Indigenous land claim agreement and treaty in Canada, and it is protected by the Constitution of Canada. Cree treaty rights set out in the Agreement cannot be changed or abolished without Cree consent. Generations of Cree to come will continue to benefit from these treaty rights.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement contains 31 chapters covering such subjects as eligibility, land regime, local and regional government, health and education, justice and police, environmental and social protection, hunting, fishing and trapping rights, community and economic development, an income security program for Cree trappers and a special forestry regime.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement gives expression to the inherent Cree right of self‑government, providing key support for modern Cree Nation governance. It establishes a partnership between the Cree, Quebec and Canada in the governance and development of Eeyou Istchee.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is a living document: it continues to grow and evolve with the times. Over the past 40 years, the Agreement has been amended by 24 Complementary Agreements to adapt it to the changing needs of the Cree Nation.
For 25 years after the signature of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975, many disputes arose between the Cree and Quebec and Canada, due largely to failure to carry out treaty commitments. Excessive forestry operations harmed Cree traplines and traditional activities. The proposed Great Whale River Hydroelectric Project threatened severe environmental and social damage. The Cree were forced to take many legal proceedings to defend our rights.
In 2001, the Cree and Quebec agreed to set aside old conflicts and to create a new partnership through a “New Relationship Agreement”. Signed on February 7, 2002, this Agreement is now known as the Paix des Braves.
The Paix des Braves marked a turning point in relations between the Cree and Quebec. It opened the way to a new Nation-to-Nation partnership between the Cree and Quebec in the responsible development of Eeyou Istchee. It provides for:
The Federal New Relationship Agreement was signed by the Cree and Canada in 2008. Inspired by the Paix des Braves, it resolved certain long-standing issues concerning Canada’s past implementation of its responsibilities toward the Cree under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
The Federal New Relationship Agreement provides the Cree with greater autonomy and resources in community and economic development. The term of the Agreement is 20 years, until 2028. Its main purposes include the following:
The Cree Offshore Agreement was signed with the Government of Canada on July 7, 2010 and came into force on February 15, 2012. Like the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, it is a land claim agreement and treaty protected by the Constitution of Canada. Its main purposes include provision for the following:
On July 24, 2012, the Cree and Quebec signed the Agreement on Governance in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory. It builds on the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Paix des Braves to establish a partnership between the Cree, Quebec and the Jamésiens for the governance of Eeyou Istchee.
The Governance Agreement has two main components. First, it provides for greater Cree autonomy on Category II lands, an area of about 70,000 square kilometres. The Cree Nation Government has the right to exercise jurisdictions, functions and powers over Category II lands under Quebec laws with respect to land and natural resource planning and management; regional development; and municipal management.
Second, the Governance Agreement provides for the creation of a new public Regional Government on Category III lands, an area of about 275,000 square kilometres. This Regional Government is composed of representatives of the Cree and the Jamésiens, in equal numbers. It exercises powers of municipal management, economic development and land and resource planning on Category III lands. It came into operation on January 1, 2014, replacing the former Municipalité de Baie-James.
The Governance Agreement marks an important milestone in the evolution of Cree governance in Eeyou Istchee
The Agreement on Cree Nation Governance was signed by the Cree and Canada on July 18, 2017. This Agreement and its companion, the Cree Constitution, flow from the Federal New Relationship Agreement of 2008. The two documents will come into force with the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee Governance Agreement Act, the federal legislation approving and giving effect to the Agreement and the Cree Constitution.
This Governance Agreement and the Cree Constitution, set out a comprehensive regime of Cree self‑governance on Cree Category IA lands, subject to federal jurisdiction under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. This Agreement and the Cree Constitution remove the Cree from the application of the Cree-Naskapi (of Québec) Act, a federal statute adopted in 1984.
This Governance Agreement sets out the power of the Cree First Nations to make laws (instead of by-laws) on a wide variety of local governance matters on Cree Category IA lands under federal jurisdiction, including environmental protection, public order and safety, land and resource use and planning. The Agreement also sets out the power of Cree Nation Government to make laws on regional governance matters on Cree Category IA lands concerning, for example, standards for essential sanitation and fire protection.
The Agreement maintains the existing land regime on these lands, including access and the grant of rights in lands and buildings. It also defines long-term financial arrangements with Canada.
The Cree Constitution is the companion to the Agreement on Cree Nation Government and flows from the Federal New Relationship Agreement of 2008. The Cree Constitution sets out arrangements regarding the exercise of the Cree right of self‑government in relation to the internal management of the Cree First Nations and the Cree Nation Government on Cree Category IA lands.
These internal governance arrangements are currently set out in the Cree-Naskapi (of Québec) Act and will be transferred into the Cree Constitution when it takes effect. These arrangements concern subjects such as procedures for making laws and resolutions, elections, meetings and referenda, financial administration and amendment of the Cree Constitution.
An important innovation introduced by the Cree Constitution is that it removes the supervision of the Government of Canada over Cree governance on Cree Category IA lands. At present, the Cree First Nations must submit certain by-laws to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs for review. The Cree Constitution eliminates this external oversight, and makes the Cree First Nations and Cree Nation Government fully responsible for their self-government.
Unlike the Cree-Naskapi (of Québec) Act, the Cree Constitution will not be set out in a federal law. Instead, it will be an internal instrument of Cree self-governance. This means that the Cree of Eeyou Istchee can amend their Constitution in the future, without the participation of Canada.