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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Quebec Indians agree dam deal
Grand Chief Ted Moses (left) and Quebec Prime Minister Bernard Landry
Grand Chief Ted Moses (l): "An historic turning point"
The regional government in Canada's province of Quebec has signed a preliminary agreement with Cree Indians that will allow for new hydroelectric dams on their land in return for development funds.

The deal
Cree get S$2.2bn in Quebec funds
All Cree legal claims are dropped
Dam creates 8,000 construction jobs
Work starts in 2004-2005
Quebec also gets forestry and mining rights

If the final agreement is signed later this year as planned, it will have put an end to an expensive legal wrangle over land rights that has lasted decades.

The Cree seem to have accepted the deal after the threat of the largely French-speaking province gaining independence from Canada - a development the Indians oppose - appeared to recede.

But past experience shows that ordinary Indians could still go against their leaders' decision.

It is not coincidental that this decision is arrived at after the horrific and tragic events of 11 September

Grand Chief Ted Moses
The Cree will receive C$3.5bn, or about US$2.2bn, in natural resources royalties from Quebec over 50 years in return for abandoning all legal action against a new power project on the Eastmain-Rupert river system in the north of the province.

The Indians had been waging legal action for decades, complaining that a 1975 agreement to build the massive James Bay complex of hydro-electric dams in the north was unfair.

They said they were never compensated properly for the flooding of fertile hunting ground and the resulting suits are now worth billions of dollars.

Peace move

The Cree have long been wary of Quebec separatism, but the province's prime minister, Bernard Landry, recently indicated that he would not hold another referendum on the issue in the near future.

Grand Chief Ted Moses said recent events in the United States had also helped produce Tuesday's accord.

"It is not coincidental that this decision is arrived at after the horrific and tragic events of 11 September," he said.

"The people throughout North America realise how small the world is and how important it is to resolve issues rather than to let them divide us."

Mr Landry said that the "basis for a great peace between Quebec and the Crees" had been found.

The preliminary agreement should be ratified in December, but ordinary Indians may have different ideas - a previous deal on James Bay Two fell apart when the Cree people voted against their leaders.

See also:

21 Sep 98 | Americas
Independence gamble in court
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Canada
02 Oct 01 | Americas
Quebec separatists suffer poll blow
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