The start of a beautiful friendship?

KRG forges ties with Liberal politicians



The new provincial minister for Northern Quebec promised to support a riding for Nunavik and speed up the creation of a provincial park at the Pingualuit crater after his first visit to the region last weekend.

Pierre Corbeil, who is also the new Liberal government’s minister of forests, wildlife and parks, made the statements after touring Nunavik with Jacques Chagnon, the minister of public security, and Geoff Kelly, the former Liberal critic for northern affairs,on Aug. 9 and 10.

The ministers came to Nunavik at the request of the Kativik Regional Government.

At the end of his visit, Corbeil said the Quebec government plans to begin reforming the province’s electoral system this fall, and that a seat for Nunavik is something the government should consider.

“I think now, from what I saw today and yesterday, that Nunavik should be first in the road to attain this,” he said. “Because up North, the Nunavik territory is different. They work with regional government as well as municipal and they pay taxes and they want to be considered as part of Quebec. We have to consider that.”

Regional politicians have been trying to get Nunavik’s provincial and federal electoral boundaries reformed for years.

But so far, independent electoral commissions have refused to give Nunavik its own seat in either Quebec’s National Assembly or the House of Commons because the region’s population is too small.

Chagnon, who has visited Nunavik on three previous occasions, also said he supports the idea of a Nunavik riding.

Some ridings in Quebec, like les Isles de la Magdalene, are already huge exceptions to the province’s electoral quotient, or number of voters needed in any given riding to ensure each Quebecers’ vote is of equal value.

“I think we should not keep the Magdalene Islands as an exception forever and the exception should be here,” he said.

By all accounts, the tour marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship for the KRG and the new Liberal provincial government that took over from the Parti Québecois earlier this year.

During the visit, the three Liberal MNAs were treated to some of the best of Nunavik.

They tasted home-made char chowder in Kangiqsualujjuaq, flew by helicopter to the Torngat Mountains and the Pingualuit crater, saw caribou, polar bears, beluga and muskox, announced a new rehabilitation centre in Kangirsuk, and toured Kuujjuaq’s char farm.

They also saw first-hand some of the region’s infrastructure needs, including better firefighting equipment, and the need for new police stations in every community.

The ministers got an accidental glimpse of the problems encountered when police must hold accused persons for several days before they can be sent down south for arraignment when they toured one of Nunavik’s old police stations in Kangiqsujuaq.

As they visited the cramped quarters, a man who had been detained in a cell for several days began swearing at the ministers’ entourage.

KRG chairman Johnny Adams said a major reason he invited the Liberal MNAs was to familiarize them with both Nunavik’s potential and its needs.

“It is always much easier to get projects through when they see the situation in Nunavik first hand,” Adams said. “For me, through my experience, it’s always been easier to get assistance once they come through the communities.”

Corbeil agreed that his visit further convinced him of the need to create provincial parks in the north, and that his first priority is the Pingualuit crater.

“I want to activate things and get them moving – to start the process pretty quickly but, that said, we have to do it carefully because whatever we do will stay for a long, long time,” he said.

His next step, he said, will be settling disputes about the park’s boundaries. Right now several mining companies still have claims inside the proposed park’s limits.

Kangiqsujuaq mayor Charlie Alaku welcomed Corbeil’s words. His village, he said, has been waiting for the park, and the income it promises to bring, for more than ten years.

“I hope it’s not just talk again because we’ve heard that before,” Alaku said. “We hope the process goes faster. It would be good for our community, Nunavik and southerners too.”

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