Land use and development in the territory

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land-useLand use planning for a territory as big as James Bay poses particular challenges. In 1986, when the James Bay Municipality (JBM) proposed the development of a zoning plan for Category III lands,the JBACE recommended that the plan be developed jointly by the JBM and the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) owing to the existing Aboriginal rights on these lands.

a) Land use planning

In 1990, the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources (MER) proposed a land use plan, i.e. a statement of government policy directions for the James Bay region. The JBACE underlined that timber supply and forest management agreements had already been approved, even though theForest Act requires that they be consistent with any land use plan established for the area. The Committee also emphasized the need to consult regional organizations more. MER abandoned its land use plan.  

In 2003, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) proposed a new approach to public land use planning. During the consultation process, the JBACE stressed the importance of the Cree system of land ownership (traplines) and adequate documentation of land uses by the Crees and Jamesians.

b) Transfer of powers to the regions

In 2005, the government adopted a program to establish regional forestry commissions with the aim of strengthening regional powers in matters of land use planning. The following year, the James Bay regional conference of elected officers (CRÉBJ), which represents Jamésian (non-Aboriginal) communities, submitted a proposal for the regional forestry commission.

The JBACE wrote to the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF - formerly MER) to point out the shortcomings in the CRÉBJ’s proposal as regards Cree involvement. The Committee invited the MRNF to bring its regional forestry commission program in line with the provisions of the environmental and social protection regime of the JBNQA. The shortcomings were rectified in 2012 with the signing of an agreement establishing the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government, which gives equal representation to Crees and Jamésians. 

c) Access to the Territory

The network of roads left behind by forest management activities has provided easier access to Cree traplines. In 1981, a number of Cree trappers complained of vandalism to their camps. The JBACE recommended that the Crees be consulted during the planning of forest roads and that these roads be decommissioned as soon as logging operations have been completed.

In 1982, the MRN began granting leases to establish rough shelters on public land for sport hunting and fishing purposes. The Crees have become increasingly concerned over the years about the unstructured way of granting these leases, some of which are located on sites of interest to the Crees. In 2002, during the MRN consultations on the policy for allocating rough shelter leases, the JBACE decried the growing number of leases, their location and their negative impact on the wildlife harvesting rights guaranteed to Aboriginal people.

In 2004, the MRN adopted “Transitional Measures Applicable to Private Vacation Development in the Nord-du-Québec Region” to better govern the granting of leases on public land. The measures prohibit the granting of rough shelter leases in sensitive areas such as Cree Category I and II lands, designated protected areas, proposed protected areas, and areas of special interest for the Crees identified pursuant to the adapted forestry regime under the ANRQC. 

d) Protected areas

The JBACE has always supported land conservation projects. However, it reminds the authorities that these projects must be submitted to the JBNQA impact assessment and review procedure. In 1986, the JBACE recommended that the proposed change in status of the Assinica wildlife sanctuary be reviewed by the Evaluating Committee.

In 1994, when the Québec government set aside four tracts of land in the James Bay region as proposed parks, the JBACE insisted that the projects undergo impact assessment and review, stressing the Crees’ wildlife harvesting rights. In 2002, the government announced five proposed protected areas on traplines belonging to the Crees of Waskaganish; further to a recommendation by the JBACE, the matter was submitted to the Evaluating Committee and an impact statement was prepared.

In 2005, the JBACE submitted a brief during the consultations on the proposed amendments to the Parks Act and the Natural Heritage Conservation Act. The Committee offered its collaboration to develop a strategy for establishing protected areas in the James Bay region.

In 2011, the Québec government pledged to devote 50% of the area covered by the “Plan Nord,” including the James Bay region, for environmental protection and non-industrial activities. The JBACE recommended accelerating ecological planning in areas of interest so as to ensure that protected areas are not restricted to zones with no mining, energy or forestry potential.   

* The land regime established by the JBNQA includes three categories of land. Category I lands are set aside for the exclusive use of the Crees. On Category II lands, the Crees have the exclusive right of hunting, fishing and trapping. Category III lands are public lands, but the Crees have the exclusive right to trap certain species. 

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