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Eeyou Istchee-James Bay government launches in Quebec

01/21/2014 10:21 EST | Updated 03/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Officials from Quebec and the James Bay Cree Nation will gather to celebrate the creation of the new EeyouIstchee - James Bay Regional Government today. 

The new regional government is made up of 11 Cree representatives and 11 representatives from the surrounding non-aboriginal communities in the James Bay region. It will effectively replace the municipal James Bay government called Municipalitéde la Baie James.

Cree Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come says it is "a step in the right direction where the people of the North, specifically the Crees, are directly involved in the decision making."

Lands in the James Bay region are divided into three categories. Category 1 lands refer to Cree communities while Category 2 and 3 lands have historically been used for aboriginal hunting and trapping but previously were managed by the Municipalité de la Baie James.

Coon Come said the new government will give Cree more power over land in Categories 2 and 3. 

"We are turning the page of the old politics of exclusion. We are now going on the path of inclusion...and avoiding to continue on the path of marginalization. Historically, we have been excluded from any decision making on category 2 and category 3 lands. Nobody bothered to consult us. Nobody sought to seek our consent.  We were told we had no rights," he says. 

Delegates are meeting today in the in the community of Waskaganish in Northern Quebec. 

Coon Come said the new regional government builds on the groundwork laid by the James Bay And Northern Quebec Agreement signed in 1975 and the Paixdes Braves, signed in 2002. 

"The next step was to have a say in how development takes place. We are (now) capable to be able to administer and co-ordinate and be able to participate in the way development happens in EeyouIstchee territory."

Several officials from Quebec will be on hand at an event today in Waskaganish, Que.. Delegates include Deputy Premier François Gendron and Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet.

Quebec premier Pauline Marois is set to address the group by video.

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