The Board of Compensation (BOC) recently elected Derrick Neeposh as its new chairperson. The elected chair also acts as president of the Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Company (CREECO), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cree Nation Government acting through the BOC.
Neeposh replaces Rusty Cheezo, who had held the position since 2017.
“I’m looking forward to a very smooth transition with the outgoing chairman,” Neeposh told the Nation. “He’s very cooperative, very respectful. And it’s a good feeling knowing that I’m going to have his continued support.”
Neeposh is completing his fourth year on the board of the BOC, and says he feels ready to take on a leadership role within the organization.
“It’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind, something that I’ve always wanted to contribute, not only for my community, but for the Cree Nation as a whole,” he said. “It’s been a very interesting learning curve over the past four years. I feel I’m ready to contribute my expertise and also my commitment to the entire organization.”
The BOC was established under Section 25 of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) to receive, administer, use and invest the compensation contemplated under the JBNQA.
It is comprised of 21 members: two elected members from each of the nine Cree communities (for a total of 18), and three appointed Cree Nation Government representatives.
Neeposh will also be seeking election to one of the BOC’s two local Waswanipi seats.
In 1997, Neeposh began working for the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi in developing a consultation process between stakeholders from the forestry industry, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and local tallymen and trappers.
“I’ve had about 20 years of experience in terms of administration, mainly in the sector of forestry, but other sectors as well, such as mining and hydro,” Neeposh noted. “So I’m not new to the business world.”
In 2007, he was hired as director general of the Mishtuk Corporation, and in 2018 he was appointed director general of the Nabakatuk sawmill, which has now officially received funding from the federal government, and is set to open in spring 2019.
Neeposh says he always looks forward to taking on new challenges.
“It’s always been an interest of mine to study emerging markets, and to look at the different strengths and weaknesses that we have in terms of investment opportunities. I want to put together a team of investment managers and staff at the BOC to look at emerging markets, like technology for example, areas that are emerging and that are fast-growing.”
Neeposh also acknowledges the ongoing discussions between the BOC-CREECO and the Cree Development Corporation (CDC) over who should direct investment of compensation monies, and operate the businesses within CREECO.
“The CDC is one area that’s always been a controversy between the BOC-CREECO and the Cree Nation Government,” Neeposh said. “It’s an area that’s a little sensitive in terms of who would control the operations of the CDC.”
The CDC was mandated by the 2002 Paix des Braves agreement, which provided for the sharing of revenues and joint management by the Cree and the Quebec government of mining, forestry and hydroelectric resources on traditional Cree lands in Quebec.
To that end, the Grand Council first passed a resolution in February 2011 that called for the phased dissolution of the BOC and the transfer of CREECO to the CDC, thereby centralizing Cree economic power in the hands of directors appointed by the Grand Council and the Quebec government.
At the time, it was argued that the dissolution of the BOC would help minimize competition between regional and local Cree businesses, and make it possible to take advantage of new business opportunities presented by Quebec’s Plan Nord development program.
But like his predecessors Rusty Cheezo and Jack Blacksmith, Neeposh resists the idea of dissolution.
“I see a solution, and it’s not to dissolve CREECO,” he said. “My idea would be to keep the CDC as a different organization where it has the opportunity to invest in local businesses. We’re more of a regional company with subsidiaries, but the CDC in my view should be orchestrated in a way where it has the ability to form ventures between communities. It’s a discussion I’ll have with the Grand Chief and also with the council board in future meetings.”
Ultimately, Neeposh says his mission is one of inclusion.
“I look forward to meeting the leaders of the communities and to bring reports to the people, because it’s owed to them. It’s because of the people that we have these companies.”