Quebec tourism minister pledges support for Nunavik
“Submit your ideas, submit your proposals, and we will work together”
KANGIQSUJUAQ — Quebec says it wants to bring in more tourists to Nunavik to boost the region’s economy.
That’s one of the reasons Quebec’s minister of tourism, Nicole Ménard and a delegation of officials decided to visit the region this past week for a first-hand look at the “friendly, beautiful and wild” experience Nunavik wants to market to the world.
“We want to do all we can to support the development of tourism here,” Ménard told a gathering in Kangiqsujuaq. “Submit your ideas, submit your proposals, and we will work together.”
Ménard said Kangiqsujuaq, home to Pingualuit, Nunavik’s first provincial park, stands as a model to other communities and regions eager to develop tourism.
But the key to getting money from Quebec is to show how tourism projects will benefit the region, Ménard said.
“We have to ensure these projects will provide a return investment,” Ménard said, noting they must also be sustainable and authentic.
Quebec gives $9 million to tourism associations across the province every year.
Nunavik’s piece of this pie helps fund its tourism association, the region’s provincial parks, and tourism employment and training programs coordinated by the Kativik Regional Government.
“That money is there to help regions make more money for themselves,” Ménard said. “But that’s not happening right now — it’s become stagnant.”
Ménard said she was hopeful that Quebec’s March 30 budget would provide an additional boost to Nunavik’s tourist industry.
But Nunavik needs a lot of money to build up the region’s foundation for tourism before Nunavimmiut can enjoy any benefits, said KRG chair Maggie Emudluk.
“Of course, we’re hoping the [Quebec] government will provide the means to help us develop it,” Emudluk said. “We really need develop our branding and get our name out there.”
Emudluk, who travelled with the group from Quebec City last week, said she welcomed the tourism department’s presence in the region.
“In Quebec City, you can talk about Nunavik, but it’s hard to imagine,” she said. “Now [Ménard] will be able to explain our reality to her colleagues.”
One of those realities is also the serious lack of housing across the region, an issue that Ménard said she would raise in the South.
“I’ve really been made aware of this situation,” Ménard told Nunatsiaq News. “I spoke to a couple who have 17 people living in their home, something I cannot imagine.”
The development of tourism isn’t the direct answer to this housing crisis, Ménard said “but we have to start somewhere.”
Ménard also acknowledged the high airfare costs to travel to the region and hinted at renewed subsidies to offset the high cost of transportation.
Ménard, her deputy minister Suzanne Giguère, and three staff members visited Kuujjuaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Kangiqsujuaq and Akulivik during their two-day trip.
“We’re here to see how people live, to see how important their culture is to them and how prepared they are to share it,” Ménard said. “These communities have to be ready to receive visitors – that’s the first step.”
During an overnight stop in Kangiqsujuaq, Ménard and her group were treated to sewing and bannock-making presentations, a snowmobile trip across Wakeham Bay, and a visit to the local hunter support program office, where they stocked up on souvenirs such as furs and traditional clothing.