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Treaties and Land Claims

Innu chiefs accuse Quebec of bad faith after delay on ‘fundamentally important’ treaty

April 2, 2024

Community members ‘are losing confidence in the negotiation process,’ says chief

Three me stand next to eachother
From left to right, Chief Réal Tettaut of Nutashkuan, Chief Martin Dufour of Essipit and Chief Gilbert Dominique of Pekuakamiulnuatsh are accusing the provincial government of acting in bad faith after the deadline passed to conclude the Petapan Treaty. (Regroupement Petapan

CBC Indigenous: Chief Gilbert Dominique is trying to remain optimistic that a “fundamentally important” treaty will be finalized with the Quebec government despite delays.

A year after the deadline passed to conclude the Petapan Treaty, Dominique says there’s still “total disappointment” in his community of Pekuakamiulnuatsh, located 260 kilometres northwest of Quebec City.

The chiefs of Essipit, Pekuakamiulnuatsh, and Nutashkuan say the Quebec government reneged on a commitment to finalize the Petapan Treaty before the deadline set for March 31, 2023.

“It’s clear that many members of our communities have lost — or are losing — confidence in the negotiation process,” said Dominique.

The three Innu communities are accusing the provincial government of acting in bad faith for failing to conclude the treaty, which has been under negotiation for more than 40 years.

Instead, Quebec has “imposed a new deadline and demanded new information,” the chiefs said Monday in a news release.

The Petapan Treaty, between the Innu First Nations, Quebec and Ottawa, would exempt the three communities from the federal Indian Act and recognize their right to self-determination and their ancestral rights.

The Innu nations reached a deal with Ottawa before the March 2023 deadline, but talks with Quebec are ongoing.

A man smiles at he camera. He is standing outside wearing a winter jacket.
Chief Gilbert Dominique says many people in the commuity are losing confidence in the negotiation process. (Laurie Gobeil/Radio-Canada)

“Negotiating a treaty is like one huge spaghetti, everything is interrelated and it’s all a question of compromise,” said Dominique.

“As soon as we pull the trigger on one element that doesn’t suit us, we’re probably going to unravel some of the other elements.”

Dominique says the treaty represents a huge opportunity for the three communities and described it as a toolbox “which will allow us, when we need it, to go and get skills from time to time, funding from time to time, to be able to implement our own laws in certain areas.”

“What’s our objective? It’s to make sure that in the management of the territory, when decisions are made, that we’re involved.”

The chiefs, who represent about 12,000 people in the North Shore and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean regions, are calling for a meeting with Premier François Legault and say they are “very seriously” considering legal action.

Initiating and pursuing a legal action is a big decision and would only be done after planning and consultations with community members, says Dominique.

‘If that’s our approach, we’ll have to consider investing several hundred thousand dollars from our own coffers, from our own funds, to fight this battle,” said Dominique.

“So it’s not insignificant, it’s a big step and when we venture into it, it’s clear that there’s no going back.”

Ewan Sauves, a spokesman for Legault, said in an email Monday that the Quebec government still aims to reach an agreement with the three Innu communities.

“However, the Petapan Treaty project is a complex issue,” Sauves said. “Our teams are hard at work. We will not negotiate in public.”

Dominique says the best solutions will be found through discussions and “not through confrontation.”

“I hope that’s the approach of Mr. Legault’s government. So I’d like to think that Quebec will move in that direction,” said Dominique.

“I think an approach like that is much healthier than one based on confrontation and notably, legal battles.”


Rachel Watts, CBC journalist

Rachel Watts is a journalist with CBC News in Quebec City. Originally from Montreal, she enjoys covering stories in the province of Quebec. You can reach her at

With files from The Canadian Press