Cree youth want a say on how La Grande Alliance development will affect their future

Quebec Cree Youth Grand Chief Adrian N. Gunner says he's concerned that youth have not been given enough say on the 30-year plan to build infrastructures on Cree territory. 

‘There's a big concern for the trees, the animals’ says youth grand chief

a group shot of several dozen youth
Cree youth gathered in Quebec City for the first Youth Councils of Eeyou Istchee Summit, which ran from Feb. 25 to 27. (Submitted by Kristen Moar )

Cree youth leaders are pushing for more time to understand and talk about a multi-billion dollar development plan and how it could affect their futures.

The development, called La Grande Alliance, is a $4.7 billion infrastructure agreement signed between the Cree Nation Government (CNG) and the Quebec government in 2020.

Quebec Cree Youth Grand Chief Adrian N. Gunner says he's concerned that young people have not been given enough say on the 30-year plan to build new infrastructure on Cree territory. 

"My main concern is that it's not being talked about enough," Gunner said. "Hopefully we can extend those discussions and information sessions so that our youth can make informed decisions on their own." 

A rail road map along Eeyou Istchee
The La Grande Alliance agreement proposes several infrastructure projects that would transform the territory including a deep sea port in Whapmagoostui, Que., 700 kilometres of new railway, hundreds of kilometres of new road, new power lines and the creation of a network of protected areas, among other projects to be built in 3 stages over the next 30 years. (Cree Nation Goverment)

The plan as it stands includes a 700-kilometre railway, new roads and power lines, as well as the creation of protected areas.

For Gunner, some of those plans are worrying. 

"There's a big concern for the trees, the animals," Gunner said. 

'Protecting our land is most important'

The Cree Nation Youth Council also expressed that young people want more discussions to better understand La Grande Alliance. 

"We want the Grande Alliance team with the youth leadership to maybe do a tour, gathering input from youth of all Cree communities," said Gunner.

During the first Youth Councils of Eeyou Istchee Summit that took place in Quebec City from Feb. 25 to 27, an hour-long session was presented by information officers from Cree Development Corporation, an investment arm of the CNG. 

While the information session was seen as useful in understanding La Grande Alliance, some youth leaders like Delicia Cheezo still had mixed thoughts about the development. 

"Is it going to make our environment, our home, better or safer? Protecting our land is most important," said Cheezo, the deputy youth chief in Waskaganish, Que.

"At the same time, La Grande Alliance could be a good thing and we don't see it yet. But it's being talked about and we need all youth, adults, and elders to share their thoughts," said Cheezo. 

The Cree Development Corporation has held 31 focus groups on the project since it was announced, with between one and 15 participants in each. Those focus groups included chief and councils, youth, elders and women, according to their feasibility study as of March 20. 

In January, the regional youth council published a news release to advocate for an extended dialogue on the feasibility study. 

A man speaks in front of a microphone
Youth Grand Chief Adrian N. Gunner speaking at the Youth Councils of Eeyou Istchee Summit in Quebec City last month. (Christian-John Monias)

The CNG and leaders from the La Grande Alliance team have yet to respond to the Cree Nation Youth Council's request for more consultations with youth before the mandate deadline.

The mandate deadline means study reports will be published. While its website and social media will remain open to answer questions, the La Grande Alliance team will not organize presentations. 

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for the Cree Development Corporation said "the conversation on the future of transportation in Eeyou Istchee should continue" because of issues like a growing population, increased traffic, road safety and maintenance. 

"As to what happens next with this conversation, any decision is in the hands of regional and local leadership," the email reads. 

The Cree Nation Government did not respond to an interview request from CBC.

The youth council said it will reassess their requests and concerns at their next board of directors meeting in April. 

"Let's pass the resolution to support advocacy and to have an extended dialogue with the youth so they can be heard and informed," said Gunner.  

"If we haven't gotten a response then, then we'll discuss this amongst the youth chiefs and the youth coordinators that sit at our board to see what those next steps are," said Gunner. 

The Cree Nation Youth Council wants more time for youth to learn more and express their views on development proposed under the Grande Alliance. To hear more about this, we spoke with Youth Grand Chief Adrian Neeposh Gunner.


Vanna Blacksmith is two-spirit and Eenou-Anishinaabe Bear Clan from the Cree Nation of Mistissini with Ojibwe roots from Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory. She is a journalist and part of CBC’s Indigenous Pathways first cohort. She currently resides in Kanien’kehá:ka territory of Tiohtià:ke, also known as Montreal.

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