Matthew Coon Come
Environment and Public Service (1995)
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come was born in 1957 in a bush tent on his father’s trap line in Northern Quebec. He attended a residential school, and studied at Trent and McGill Universities. His political career began at the age of 16 when he attended the meeting of his community’s elders to discuss Phase One of the James Bay Project. Since that time, he has emerged as one of the most significant leaders of the Cree Communities of Northern Quebec. Under his leadership, the Cree have initiated research into resource management, the environmental impacts of hydro-electric development, energy economics and political economy. He oversaw the Cree’s role at the United Nations to draft a Universal Declaration of the Right of Indigenous Peoples. During the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accord discussions, he made significant contribution to the negotiations on constitutional amendments that would have guaranteed Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada. Despite the subsequent failures of the accords, Matthew’s contributions raised standards regarding the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada. He is known as a negotiator and leader who has signed agreements with the government of Canada to build infrastructure improvements in Cree communities. He is best known for his work opposing the Great Whale Hydro Electric Project in Quebec, where he showed tenacity of purpose and clarity of vision by insisting on a full, comprehensive and public assessment. This tenacity led to the Quebec Government’s decision to cancel the project. Mathew is known nationally and internationally for his environmental work and the leadership of the Cree people of Northern Quebec.