Quebec ponders study of Nunavik road link

Will the people of Nunavik get a road to Kuujjuaq?


KUUJJUAQ Imagine a convoy of trucks laden with cheap, fresh produce steaming up the road from Montreal to Kuujjuaq in the middle of winter.

Then, picture rows of warehouses, a busy airport and deep-sea port in Kuujjuaq, the new staging point for goods in the Eastern Arctic.

Today, however, this road link to the North is more dream than reality.

Even by the most optimistic estimates, it would be at least five years before a road to Kuujjuaq is ever undertaken, but already people have strong feelings about such a plan.

“I think it’s a terrific idea,” said Michel Letourneau, the member of the Quebec National Assembly for the Ungava region, said. “When we get back into session in October, I’m going to push it.”

Premier sounded positive

The idea of building a road to cover the 250-kilometre distance from Schefferville to Kuujjuaq isn’t new, but it’s been given new life since Premier Lucien Bouchard waxed positive about the idea during a recent visit to Nunavik.

The Quebec government is now apparently thinking about commissioning a $600,000 feasibility study.

Such a study would examine not only the cost of such a road, but also its environmental, economic and social impact.

NunaTech, a Kuujjuaq-based consulting firm, tried unsucccessfully last year to get federal funding to study the Schefferville-to-Kuujjuaq road concept.

Jean Corbeil, an engineer with NunaTech, is more hopeful about the road’s chances this time around.

“It’s not even a project yet,” he says, “But I think it would be good for all the eastern Arctic. Everything would cost less.”

Not everyone’s so enthusiastic about the idea, though.

“We’re not ready for such a big project, so who will really benefit?” asks Charlie Watt Jr.

Watt said a road to the South would be a further intrusion on the Inuit way of life.

Conflict of interest complaints

Jean Dupuis, the president of the Kativik Regional Government, has been a long-time backer of the road link between Kuujjuaq and the South. Dupuis believes the road would cut costs across the region and provide new jobs, particularly for young people.

“We’re always crying to the government that we are isolated and about the cost of living,” he said. “We have an opportunity to do a study of what the economic impact would be. If we’re not going to do a feasibility study, we should shut up.”

Kuujjuaq Mayor Johnny Adams said a referendum on the road idea would be held before going ahead with the project. But that won’t happen until after a feasibility study is completed, and there’s no word yet when or if the study will be done.

One thing’s for sure: Nunavik residents won’t be able to ignore the prospect of a road to the South forever.

“Eventually, it will have to be discussed,” Adams said.

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