Over the years, the Canadian government has signed two “enforcement agreements” with the Naskapi and Inuit and an out-of-court settlement with the Cree: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Accord (JBNQA) is a legal agreement signed on November 11, 1975 by the Government of Quebec, the Government of Canada, Hydro-Québec and two of its subsidiaries. the Grand Conseil des Crees du Québec and the Association des Inuits du Nord du Québec. The JBNQA redefined and reformulated land management and the relationship between the State of Quebec and the Indigenous peoples of James Bay and the Northern Quebec region (see James Bay Project, Contracts with Indigenous Peoples in Canada). Prior to Canadian Confederation, the lands of northern Quebec were part of Rupert`s Country, the territory managed by the Hudson`s Bay Company under the Charter it received from King Charles II in 1670. In 1870, Rupert`s land was ceded to Canada, and in 1895 the area between the province of Quebec and the Hudson Highway became the Ungava District of the Northwest Territories. In 1898, Quebec`s northward border was extended to the Eastmain River. Quebec continued to claim the remaining district of Ungava, north of the Eastmain River, and in 1912 the territory was transferred to Quebec, on the condition that a treaty be negotiated with the indigenous peoples of the region, recognizing their cultural rights and ceding their right to the country in Quebec and Canada. At that time, there was still no treaty covering this area. The Government of Quebec did not immediately undertake such negotiations. However, more than thirty amendment agreements, ancillary agreements and relevant laws illustrate the complexity and dynamics of the agreement.
In 1984, the Canadian Parliament kept its promise of Aboriginal autonomy and passed the Cree-Naskapi (Quebec) Act, the first of its kind at the national level (see Aboriginal Autonomy in Canada). The Naskapi joined the JBNQA in 1978 by signing the Northeastern Québec subsidiary agreement. The JBNQA came into force through both federal and provincial legislation. Footnote 78 This was the first modern and comprehensive agreement on fonal claims and has since structured the legal and administrative relationship between the Inuit and James Cree Bay. It has also been renegotiated, increasing the extension of self-government to Category II and III countries. The signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Accord (JBNQA) on November 11, 1975 between the Governorate of Quebec, the Government of Canada, the James Bay Crees and the Inuit of Northern Quebec was the culmination of these negotiations. The JBNQA is the first modern focal claims agreement in Canada. On January 31, 1978, the Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) and joined the Comité de coordination de la chasse, de la pêche et des pièges. The exchange that deals with the agreement has not remained silent on the nationalist motivations that push Quebec to sign the contract. However, research into the constitutional challenges identified by provincial negotiators at the heart of the agreement is sorely lacking.
Our work here is the first to draw on the archives of the first Bourassa government and the first to say that the negotiators of the agreement knew absolutely that they were taking a constitutional risk. We set out the objectives, speculations and strategies of the provincial negotiators under Robert Bourassa`s authority, and confirmed that the province agreed in a strategic relationship with potential future belligerents, the courts and public opinion, and how the agreement was marked by this strategic understanding. Aware of the constitutional issue at the heart of the agreement, Quebec negotiators took a risk by speculating that the agreement on the focial claims could escape judicial review as long as the political balance with the Cree, Inuit and the public was maintained. . . .