Deal did not provide 'significant new opportunities'

Land claim pact brought few benefits: study


The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement has produced mixed results for Inuit and Cree in northern Quebec, says a report published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, an independent Canadian think-tank.

Some 30 years after the $225 million deal was signed, the improvements in Inuit and Cree communities are only "marginally greater" with respect to infrastructure, health, education and income than in aboriginal communities that had no land claims deals, says the institute's analysis of the 1975 James Bay agreement, also know as the JBNQA.

"Tight administrative control and tight budgets" help explain why the two regions didn't make as much progress as they could have, researcher Martin Papillon said in his study.

"The JBNQA did give more responsibility to Crees and Inuit for administering the programs, but, with only a few exceptions (such as in education and language training), it did not provide them with significant new opportunities to create community-relevant social policies and promote economic development, nor did it change the general spirit of the relationship between the governments and the people of Eeyou Istchee and Nunavik," Papillon says.

He said the main benefits of the land claims deal resulted from the organizations created by the JBNQA, which built a sense of "solidarity."

And the JBNQA also slowed the decline in traditional activities, easing the transition to a wage-based economy, Papillon says.

But his study concludes that while economic conditions in northern Quebec have improved, it's hard to prove that is linked to the millions of dollars that flowed from the JBNQA.

Papilon said one reason for this is the uneven implementation of the deal.

But he said resolving this situation won't occur through more government activity but through more employment.

"In a resource-rich region, job creation should stem from natural resource extraction activities. The limits of the JBNQA in this respect have become obvious over time," he says.

New agreements such as the 2001 Sanarrutik deal between Quebec and Nunavik on social and economic development are a step in the right direction, Papillion suggests.

The entire text of "Aboriginal Quality of Life under a modern treaty" can de downloaded at

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