Consultations for Nunavik Protected Areas began this week in Kuujjuaq and are slated to continue across the region over the next few months.
The Kativik Regional Government held public consultation meetings at the Kuujjuaq Forum over the past week to give residents a voice in the process it’s going through to register parts of Nunavik as areas with a protected status under the Quebec government. Consultations remain open in Kuujjuaq until Friday.
KRG will visit the remaining Nunavik communities in the new year.
According to KRG, 29,800 square kilometers of Nunavik’s territory have been registered as protected areas. Following these consultations, the goal is to register 20 per cent of the region — nearly 100,000 square kilometres — as protected areas, KRG chair Hilda Snowball said.
“At the moment, it is not registered yet, so that is why we are having the consultations: to see how the process is, and what areas are being protected,” Snowball said.
The areas listed on the Nunavik Protected Areas website include various rivers, lakes and biodiversity reserves scattered throughout the region.
As protected areas, Inuit as well as Cree from Whapmagoostui and Naskapi First Nations from Kawawachikamach will still be able to hunt, fish and use the land as they currently do, but large-scale resource extraction operations will not be permitted.
“The protection of the areas are to be protected from, for example mining exploration or the building of a dam, or exploiting any minerals,” Snowball said.
“Even though it is called a protected area, for the beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, there won’t be any changes.”
Snowball said the process of getting the proposed protected areas registered with the province will take until 2024 or 2025.
But, in the meantime, she’s encouraging anyone who wants to have a say in the process to attend a consultation meeting, learn about what is happening, and voice their concerns about the natural landscapes of the region.
“It is very important for us to consult the communities – Inuit, Cree and Naskapi – because the land is very important to us,” Snowball said.
“In order for us to have a proper process, it is better for us to do a consultation to all those who are involved.
Next week, the consultations will take place in Aupaluk at the old northern village on Nov. 7 and in Kangirsuk at the northern village on Nov. 9 and 10. The week after, they will take place in Tasiujaq at the Natturalik Center on Nov. 14 and in Kangiqsualujjuaq at the northern village on Nov. 17 and 18.
Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News