Berthe blasts Bouchard for forgetting Nunavik in Japan


KUUJJUAQ — The Makivik Corporation’s corporate secretary, George Berthe, says Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard’s ignored Nunavik’s needs during last week’s Team Canada trade mission to Japan.

The Makivik Corporation had plunked down $20,000 so that Berthe, and Nunavik Tourism’s Vicki Gordon could go to Japan from September 11-18 and boost Nunavik’s profile abroad.

“Was the $20,000 worth it? Berthe asked rhetorically. “Yes. Will we be able to return it? Yes.”

But Nunavik’s lobbyists say they didn’t get any help from Bouchard.

“I got the impression that Bouchard’s Quebec doesn’t include Nunavik,” Berthe said. “I attended Bouchard’s presentation. I saw his promotional items, syrup and soap — but he never said anything about Inuit.”

The Nunavimmiut were on their own when they tried put Nunavik on the map.

“Bouchard had a really well-organized Quebec team, with Quebec flags, Quebec-Japan pins,” Berthe said.

“He organized lunches and met with the Japanese separately. We were never invited, and we only found out later. He never mentioned Nunavik in his speeches. He said, ‘to do business with Quebec, do business with Montreal and Quebec.'”

Berthe nonetheless tried to sell the idea of doing business in Nunavik.

He and Gordon were equipped with caps as well as other promotional gear and brochures on the region. Makivik had even translated some information into Japanese beforehand.

But when Berthe tried to set up some meetings in Japan through the Quebec government’s office there, he was told to go to through the Canadian embassy instead.

“They [the Quebec officials] didn’t provide us with any help,” Berthe said.

While the presence of Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik on the trip helped promote Inuit in a general way, Berthe said companies were delighted to discover that there are also Inuit outside of Nunavut who want new business investment and products.

These included a Canadian company that builds mini hydro projects, another that uses seal oil for vitamins, a prefab housing manufacturer, and telecommunications providers.

“I can’t stick a number on the positive signals we got, but I believe it’s going to pay off for us,” Berthe said.

But Berthe still wants to find out why Bouchard sidestepped Nunavik in his sales pitch for Quebec.

“When he comes to inaugurate the Pingualuit Crater Park, or sign the Nunavik political accord, we’re going to ask him what his intentions are and whether this style of selling Quebec will go on,” Berthe said.

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