07/24/2012 01:34 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Charest signs deal with Cree to give them increased powers in northern Quebec

QUEBEC - Premier Jean Charest and the Cree Nation signed an agreement Tuesday that will gives the Cree more powers over land and resources in northern Quebec.

The deal provides for the creation of a new regional government that will replace the existing municipality of James Bay. Cree and James Bay residents will be equally represented and have an equal share of votes.

The agreement will give the Cree increased powers over land management and natural resources. The Cree will have exclusive jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects of 50 MW or less and wind projects in certain parts of the territory.

Charest and Matthew Coon Come, the grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, signed the agreement at the legislature in Quebec City.

"The signing of this agreement demonstrates that together we can achieve major projects and that we share a common will to implement the Plan Nord in harmony and with respect for the needs and interests of each," Charest said.

The Plan Nord is Charest's ambitious multibillion-dollar northern development plan.

Both sides hailed Tuesday's deal as one that should inspire the rest of Canada in its relations with native groups.

"We're not afraid to sit down with our neighbours to be able to develop plans," Coon Come said. "We're not afraid to be able to sit down with governments. I think working together is far better."

"Yes, we will have our differences...But I'm willing to go down that road."

The territory covers 330,000 square kilometres.