Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
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Back in the saddle again
Abraham Rupert discusses being reelected as Chief of Chisasibi
It may have been five years since Abraham Rupert held the position of Chief in his home community of Chisasibi but that doesn’t mean that the recently reelected leader isn’t feeling confident about taking on the position. For that matter Rupert feels all the more confident as he was voted in twice.
After Chisasibi’s July election failed to produce a clear majority for leadership with 50 plus one percent of the votes, though Rupert had received the most votes, the community opted for a runoff election. The second time round Rupert received the required majority and the position.
“I feel honoured, very honoured. I am honoured that people wanted me back in office,” said Rupert.
When asked what he believes got him so many votes, Rupert said it was because he “stands for things, particularly the land.”
In vying for the position, Rupert said he didn’t have a big platform though he did engage in radio interviews while campaigning. Hydro-Québec’s diversion of the Rupert River was something he discussed a great deal, particularly as many Chisasibi residents told him about how much they owe to the energy giant.
In light of this, Rupert said he wants to see where his community’s wind-power file stands and what kind of progress has been made to see if the wind-power turbines will ever spin near Chisasibi. Though the community signed on with Suez Environment years ago for the development of wind power, Chisasibi is one of few communities that are not partners with the majority of Cree communities that form Eeyou Power, the first Cree Nation energy company.
Rupert said he has other issues with Hydro-Québec, in particular their promise to build a high ground for the community to go to in the event of a crisis with one of the dams – this came out of the 2002 Paix des Braves Agreement. He promised to investigate what is going on with this issue to ensure the safety of his people as it might be something that they would need in a worst-case scenario.
“There is a wide range of issues. This is the largest community in the Cree nation and this is the most impacted of the Cree nation and in more ways than one,” said Rupert in reference to a recent murder in Chisasibi and the community’s high suicide rate.
As Chief, Rupert said he is ultimately committed to discussing where the community is at and where they would like to go in the future. While campaigning Rupert said he heard a great deal from the public and those who were elected as councillors also had the opportunity to hear many of the public’s perspectives. Before going about anything drastic, Rupert said he wants to consult with the new councillors to see what they have heard from the public so that decisions can be based on what people of Chisasibi want and need.
What Rupert heard from the public were a lot of complaints about “economic control” from companies and private businesses that feel they have not been able to work to their full potential. This is an area Rupert said he will focus on as it is what the people need and stimulating the local economy is a priority.
“These companies feel as though they are being controlled by CNC instead of having independence because they were thriving businesses. They want more openness, transparency and fairness, particularly when it comes to awarding contracts,” said Rupert.
Another area Rupert plans to look at is the local police department as he has received complaints from individuals who claim that they were unfairly treated while being held by police.
While he realizes he has a great deal of work ahead of him, Rupert is more than ready to get down to business and work hard to serve the people of Chisasibi.
“What I told the people was that five years is quite a long time and within these five years different things will come up and new situations will present themselves. Things will happen unexpectedly and I intend to deal with them. If issues come up that involve the people, I will make sure that the people are well informed and that they make the decisions, and it will not just the Chief and council making decisions on their behalf,” said Rupert.