Recommissioned Waswanipi Sawmill to Help Housing Needs of Cree First Nation

The Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, Mishtuk Corporation and Chantiers Chibougamau, inaugurated the recommissioned Waswanipi sawmill, Cree Lumber, on November 24th. This historic event follows on the signing of the Paix des Braves 20 years ago and represents the result of a unique partnership in Waswanipi.

On October 23, 2001, the government of Bernard Landry, Prime Minister of Quebec at the time, and the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec, signed an agreement that guaranteed the First Nation a share in the development of the natural resources of their territory, and a large share of the economic benefits of the James Bay hydroelectric projects.

Through the Cree Lumber project, the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi says it will transform the trees on their territory to meet the housing needs of the Cree Nation and beyond. They see this project as an engine of pride and ambition for young people, and the future of their community.

It’s all about sustainability: we take only what we need to sustain ourselves,” says Irene Neeposh, Chief of the Cree Community of Waswanipi. “The announcement of Cree Lumber is part of that vision of sustainability that is much needed for us as a community. Having the mill re-open allows people to be part of the solution in addressing the housing crisis, and encourage them to build their own home so we’re not so heavily dependent on social housing.”

It represents an investment of over $20 million, which directly benefits the Waswanipi community, and contributes to the region’s economic vitality. It includes contributions from Investissement Québec, Canada Economic Development for Québec Regions, Natural Resources Canada, the Cree Nation Government and the Société de développement de la Baie-James.

I believe it is a first step to enhancing our presence as a nation and becoming key players in an industry seeking inclusivity to accommodate our relationship with the territory,” adds Mandy Gull-Masty, Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Government (Eeyou Istchee).

The new Cree Lumber sawmill will create 30 long-lasting and stable work opportunities for community members. The working schedule has been carefully created to welcome traditional culture, hunting and fishing periods, such as Moose Break or Goose Break. Its 48 production weeks are organized so employees have the time to honour their strong Cree heritage. Additionally, Cree Lumber’s mill will be one of the most modern sawmills in Quebec. As a result, the mill can accommodate all genders and ages (This is a weird last sentence – either explain further or take it out – I vote to take it out).

“We are proud of the creation of long-lasting jobs for the Waswanipi community. Those jobs won’t go away overnight, whether it’s in mechanics or trucking, they will directly contribute to the expansion and the sustainability of Cree Lumber,” says Paul Gull, CEO and Chairman of the board at Cree Lumber

The need for housing in the Waswanipi Cree community is critical and growing. At Eeyou Istchee, 5,250 new single-family dwellings will be required over the next 15 years. Concrete solutions adapted to the population’s needs are becoming urgent.

Cree Lumber will facilitate house construction in Cree communities by providing lumber and materials to the community to meet the urgent housing needs – 2,000 houses on a yearly basis. Logging will be used almost exclusively to harvest timber for housing, thus meeting a basic need.

“Today’s announcement is not an end goal,” says Michel Filion, Chief Operating Officer, at Chantiers Chibougamau. “We are investing to give our know-how and ensure the longevity and sustainability of this Waswanipi-lead project and make it a business and social success. […] When the community asked forestry companies in their search for a partner for this ambitious project, it was natural and also very important for us to accept the invitation and put all our energy and all our resources into taking up the challenge.

Chantiers Chibougamau is a strategic and minority shareholder of Cree Lumber.


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