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Nunavik needs self-government before needing protected lands: Makivik Corp.

Makivik Corp. says Nunavik cannot 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 its intention to designate 29,785 square kilometers of new land reserves in Nunavik, as well as to expand two existing reserves.

These areas include the Innuksuac River Basin, the Arnaud River, Tursujuq North, Tursujuq Center, Tursujuq South, Eaton Canyon, Maritime Marsh, George River, George River North and Marralik River.

Once approved, these areas would be protected from industrial development.

But Makivik says the time is not right for the organization to support the plan, as the Inuit of Nunavik are in full consultation on the creation of a new Inuit government for the region.

Makivik refused to collaborate in the Press release of December 11 the Quebec government got angry when it announced the protected areas.

“Right now our focus is our self-determination,” said Adamie Delisle Alaku, vice president of environment, wildlife and research at Makivik Corp. “We are trying to regain our own authority over land and water.

Makivik does not have the means to block the government’s plans, although the proposed protected areas still need to be the subject of 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.

Nunavik organizations participated in the selection of designated areas after the territory launched the Plan Nord, its master plan for development north of the 49th parallel, in 2011. Their participation has continued since then. But Delisle Alaku said the final proposal was brought forward by the province using French place names that most Inuit would not recognize.

Makivik Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government in May 2019 that serves as a framework for negotiations for Inuit self-government for the region.

It is not clear what roles a self-government of Nunavik would assume. But the Ottawa initiative on the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination promises “the implementation and exercise of indigenous rights,” including the recognition of indigenous legislative power and inherent rights to the land.

Makivik’s chief negotiator is drafting a constitution for Nunavik, which the organization says will establish the conditions for establishing a regional government based on Inuit values, culture and language.

While Makivik is working with the federal government, the organization has not yet signed the same memorandum of understanding to work with Quebec.

“At the moment, we are in the early stages of our negotiations with the federal government, but that will have to change [to Quebec] soon, ”said Delisle Alaku.

“And this whole idea of ​​working together, nation to nation – we have a lot of progress to make.”

When the Quebec government first launched the Plan Nord, it made a commitment to protect 20% of the province’s landmass by 2020.

Today, 10 years and three governments later, this process is underway; François Legault’s government recently launched its own scaled-down version of a Nordic plan.

The latest land designations in Nunavik bring the total protected area of ​​the province to 12.7 percent.

“For me, it’s having a good report card,” said Delisle Alaku. “They are pushing their own agenda forward.”

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera