Quebec City forum looks at Plan Nord
“Plan Nord is supposed to prioritize identity and culture, but I don’t see how it is doing that”
What would you like to say to Premier Jean Charest about Plan Nord — that’s the question put to panelists at the end of this week’s two-day conference on Plan Nord in Quebec City, called “The North Matters.”
Lisa Koperqualuk, the president and founder of Nunavik’s Saturviit womens association, participated in another panel at the forum called, “Beyond the economic boom.”
But she knows what she’d like to tell Charest.
His Plan Nord needs to put a focus on women and children and the overall well-being of people in Nunavik, Koperqualuk said in an interview from Quebec City.
“Right now, there’s a lack of Inuit women’s participation and in decision-making around Plan Nord,” she said.
Koperqualuk’s message to Charest would include a call to work on concrete measures to protect children’s rights.
She’d also like to see Plan Nord lead to a higher minimum wage for people in Nunavik.
And her letter would include a request for more respect for Inuit from the Quebec government.
“Plan Nord is supposed to prioritize identity and culture, but I don’t see how it is doing that,” she said, adding that a recent statement by Charest rankled her.
Charest told business leaders in an April 20 speech, delivered as angry students rioted outside Montreal’s Palais des congrès that “people are coming from all directions to get into the conference centre. They’re looking for jobs . . . For those knocking on our doors this morning, we’ll offer them jobs — as much as possible, in the North.”
“I thought that was very disrespectful of the North and the people,” Koperqualuk said.
A group of Nunavimmiut walked out of that speech because it was delivered in French only.
Few Inuit were featured or participated in this week’s forum, which was organized by Nature Québec, the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Centrale des Syndicats du Québec, Quebec Native Women, and the Canadian Research Chair on Aboriginal Territorial Governance.
On May 2 Kativik Regional Government’s chairperson Maggie Emudluk spoke about the “big picture” of Plan Nord, while Pita Aatami, the former president of Makivik Corp. spoke about Plan Nord and governance.
Participants also discussed the economics of Plan Nord and issues around conservation.
A similar conference for people in Nunavik on Plan Nord has not taken place — and Koperqualuk said that would be useful.
But, while discussions around Plan Nord continue in southern Quebec, Nunavimmiut will have a chance to learn more about what Nunavik wants out of Plan when the Plan Nunavik finally becomes available in Inuttitut.