Nunavik needs self-government before it needs protected lands: Makivik Corp.
“Right now our focus is our self-determination”
Makivik Corp. says Nunavik can’t support Quebec’s plan for new protected areas in the region — not while the organization is working towards self-government.
In December, the Quebec government announced plans to designate 29,785 square kilometres in new land reserves in Nunavik, as well as to expand two existing reserves.
Those areas include the Innuksuac River basin, Arnaud River, Tursujuq North, Tursujuq Centre, Tursujuq South, Eaton Canyon, Maritime Marsh, George River, George River North and Marralik River.
Once approved, those areas would be protected from industrial development.
But Makivik says the timing isn’t right for the organization to get behind the plan, because Nunavik Inuit are in the middle of consultation towards creating a new Inuit government for the region.
Makivik declined to collaborate on the Dec. 11 news release the Quebec government put out when it announced the protected areas.
“Right now our focus is our self-determination,” said Adamie Delisle Alaku, the vice-president of environment, wildlife and research at Makivik Corp. “We’re trying to regain our own authority over the lands and water.”
Makivik does not have the means to block the government’s plans, though the proposed protected areas must still undergo public consultations and an impact assessment before the province can give them the green light.
But the Inuit birthright organization hopes its message will be heard in Quebec City.
Nunavik organizations did participate in selecting the designated areas after the territory first launched Plan Nord, its blueprint for development north of the 49th parallel, in 2011. Their participation has been ongoing since then. But Delisle Alaku said the final proposal was delivered by the province using French language place names that most Inuit wouldn’t recognize.
Makivik Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government in May 2019 that serves as a framework for negotiations towards an Inuit self-government for the region.
It’s not clear what roles a Nunavik self-government would assume. But Ottawa’s Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination initiative pledges “the implementation and exercise of Indigenous rights,” including the recognition of Indigenous law-making power and inherent rights to land.
Makivik’s chief negotiator is in the process of drafting a Nunavik constitution, which the organization says will lay out the terms for establishing a regional government based on Inuit values, culture and language.
While Makivik is working with the federal government, the organization has yet to sign the same memorandum of understanding to work with Quebec.
“Right now we’re in the infancy of our negotiations with the feds, but that’s going to need to switch [to Quebec] soon,” Delisle Alaku said.
“And this whole notion of working together, nation-to-nation — we have huge strides to make.”
When the Quebec government first launched Plan Nord, it committed to protecting 20 per cent of the province’s landmass by 2020.
Now, 10 years and three government later, that process is ongoing; François Legault’s government recently launched its own scaled-back version of a northern plan.
The latest land designations in Nunavik bring the total protected area of the province to 12.7 per cent.
“To me it’s to have a good report card,” Delisle Alaku said. “They’re pushing their own agenda.”