An environmental group says an agreement signed this week between Cree citizens in Northern Quebec and their provincial government is more than just a development deal.

This week, First Nations living near James Bay sat down with Premier Jean Charest’s government to chart a new way forward.

Up until now, much of the decision-making on their traditional lands was carried out by a municipal government.

However, that body has now been dissolved in favour of a comprehensive government composed of Cree and non-Cree citizens alike.

First Nations now control 50% of the votes on the new council — giving them a much larger say in which projects can move ahead.

Valérie Courtois of the Canadian Boreal Initiative says the agreement also takes into account the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which is quite rare:

“It’s very difficult for Aboriginal governments to be recognized by the provincial governments in order to really push for that generation of a new relationship or nation-to-nation relationship.  So, this agreement really speaks to that — and, to us, it’s a great example of how the UN Declaration can be implemented here in Canada.”

She adds the UN Declaration calls for Indigenous people to have control over their own lands and this deal makes space for Cree leadership to have that ability.