First Nations feel blindsided by plan
MONTREAL — The Plan Nord was launched by Jean Charest as the “project of a generation,” with the short-term hope of generating votes for his Quebec Liberals.
Two years later, in a fly-in, fly-out news conference in Chibougamau, the Parti Québécois government has launched its Nord pour tous (North for All) plan. Despite similarities, Premier Pauline Marois insists her government’s plan is not at all the same as the Plan Nord.
In fact, the PQ has scaled down the size of public investments in the north and Marois avoided any mention of Charest’s 25-year target of $80 billion in investments.
Marois stressed that unlike the Liberal Plan Nord, her North for All vision is focused on protecting the environment and takes into account the concerns of native and non-native people living in the north. But environmentalists and aboriginal leaders expressed disappointment, and said they felt blindsided by the government.
Ghislain Picard, Assembly of First Nations chief for Quebec and Labrador, said he received a “maladroit” email invitation last Friday to the Chibougamau news conference.
“It’s a good thing I check my email,” Picard said, adding that although the Marois government held a summit with native people in December, agreeing to talk about joint management, sharing resource royalties and consultations, the Assembly of First Nations was not consulted before her North for All announcement — which Picard did not attend.
Marois, who was joined at Tuesday’s news conference by four of her ministers and Luc Ferland, the Parti Québécois MNA for Chibougamou, announced two future roundtables with natives and non-natives.
The Quebec Crees of Eeyou Istchee, whose territory is included in the North for All plan, said in a news release Tuesday they want the government to implement a governance agreement signed in July 2012 so they can go ahead with their own northern development plan.
Suzann Méthot, Quebec director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, noted that Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet was not among the four ministers with Marois.
“It is disappointing,” Méthot said. “And we worked so hard.”
Charest agreed that 50 per cent of the Plan Nord territory would be designated protected areas, where no mining or other development would be allowed, and set a target of identifying 20 per cent of the protected areas by 2020.
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