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Gov't Manipulating James Bay Issue

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FEBRUARY 1974      v04 n02 p21  
George Manuel

Ottawa - Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chretien is deliberately misleading the public and parliament and attempting to manipulate Indian people over the James Bay issue, according to George Manuel, president of the National Indian Brotherhood.

Mr. Chretien's support of the Bourassa government's $100 million settlement proposal to Indian and Inuit people in the James Bay area of Quebec is a blatant attempt to set a dangerous president for the settlement of aboriginal rights, Mr. Manuel said in a prepared statement.

Quebec Indians have been fighting for two years to gain recognition of their aboriginal rights in the James Bay area where the Provincial Government has plans to, build a $6 billion Hydro Project. A Quebec Superior Court ruled recently that the Indians had valid land claims to the area although that ruling was later overturned by an Appeals Court "and is now being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Despite government protestations that it is upholdings its responsibilities to the James Bay people "the intransigence of the Government of Canada is not recognizing the aboriginal rights of the Indian at this time is a sheer dereliction of legal and moral duty," Mr. Manuel said.

Mr. Manuel also said the Bourassa government's settlement proposal is "extremely weak" and full of "ambiguities, undefined areas and implied intentions."

Compared with the Treaties signed on the prairies, the Bourassa proposal makes no provision for mineral resources from Indian reserve lands to be held for the benefit of Indian people for all time.

The settlement also calls for social and economic services to be provided by "the Government" and if the Government implied by this provision is the provincial government then it will represent a transfer of federal responsibility to provincial authority and a complete abrogation of the federal government's constitutional responsibility, Mr. Manuel said.

Such a precedent would be "extremely dangerous for all Native groups in Canada," he said.

The $100 million offered by the Quebec government would see $40 million distributed over 10 years directly to the people, which for 8,000 people represents $500 a year per person, and another $60 million made payable through royalties. The disputed area involves ore than 85 million acres and the settlement offer is therefore equivalent to a price of only $1.17 per acre.