Regional Government running world’s largest municipality still little understood

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Even though the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government (EIJBRG) has been in place since 2014, questions remain about its role.

The Nation reached Grand Chief Abel Bosum, the current chairperson of the Regional Government, to clear up some of the confusion.

In many ways, the formation of the Regional Government can be seen as a natural evolution of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Paix des Braves agreement of 2002, Bosum explained. While both recognized Cree governance and management of natural resources, they also left many finer details of the proposed nation-to-nation relationship undefined.

In 2012, the Cree Nation Government (CNG) and the Quebec government signed the Agreement on Governance in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory. This was supported by legislation adopted by the National Assembly in 2013, which replaced the Municipalité de Baie-James (MBJ) with the EIJBRG January 1, 2014.

The new Regional Government covers 277,000 square kilometres of Category 3 land, as set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

This new government was formed by representatives of both the Cree Nation Government and the Jamésian communities: there are 11 Cree representatives, made up of chiefs from each community in addition to the Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief. The 11 Jamésian representatives are chosen from the municipal councils of the four municipalities and three localities in the territory.

Every two years, the chairperson rotates between the Grand Chief and a representative of the non-Cree communities.

The Regional Government functions as a municipality – the world’s largest by land mass, according to its website – and provides municipal services to a number of people who occupy leases and pay taxes within the territory but outside of individual communities.

The EIJBRG is responsible for by-laws that regulate subjects such as natural resources and the environment, businesses, and cottages. It also promotes tourism in the region.

While Bosum notes that the high cost of travel has seen declines in tourism since the 1960s and 1970s, he’s hopeful that tourism can be beneficial to people in the region, while respecting the environment and Cree culture.

Bosum thinks the Regional Government has also been useful for having the Jamésian communities understand Cree culture and issues, and vice-versa. “Both sides are trying to understand each other’s ways of dealing with issues and making decisions,” he said. “Communication is the only way to understand each other. Learning to respect each others’ opinions, looking at options to resolve them.”

After regional elections across Quebec November 5, Bosum looks forward to holding a planning session with the chiefs and the new mayors and councillors to figure out what the Regional Government might accomplish in the coming years.

“Infrastructure is a big issue, we lack infrastructure,” he emphasized. “Many of our communities still rely on gravel roads, those need to be improved. The James Bay highway needs improvement; connections between inland and coastal areas need improvement. Lots of road infrastructure is absent, and needed to stimulate the economy.”


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