By Julie Delisle
The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) and the Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee (KEAC) were created for the Cree and Inuit to participate in evaluating development projects which will affect their lands and rights as defined by the JBNQA. The JBACE for the Cree south of the 55th parallel and the KEAC, for Nunavik Inuit, are responsible for reviewing legislation and regulations related to development projects and recommending environmental regulations to the government as well as suggesting the need for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the corresponding Commissions. These commissions are: the tripartite Québec/Canada/Cree Evaluating Committee (COMEVand the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission (KEQC)/ Federal Review Committee North (FRC-North). These two committees are responsible for setting guidelines for EIA. The assessments are then reviewed by the Provincial Review Committee (COMEX)/ Federal Review Committee (FRC-South) for the south. In Nunavik they are reviewed by the same KEQC and FRC-North committees. [add table as a side see at the end of document, after bibliography]
An EIA must consider a set of environmental principles included in the JBNQA, which include “protecting the hunting, fishing and trapping rights of the Native people; minimizing the impact on Native people by developmental activity; protecting Native people, societies, communities and economies, and wildlife resources, physical, biotic and ecological systems with respect to developmental activity; and minimizing the negative environmental and social impacts of development on Native people and on Native communities” (Peters, 1999, p. 400) . Since the JBNQA was signed, some 500 projects have been submitted to the environmental assessment process (MDDELCC, 2015).
In regards to the Plan Nord, both the JBACE and the KEAC have responded with recommendations to the Quebec Government. The Plan Nord originally stated that 50% of the territory of application would be used as protected areas and natural reserves by 2035. The land would protect the environment and biodiversity while promoting natural heritage and non-industrial development activities (Plan Nord 2015)
The KEAC responded with a position paper which was submitted to the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs. In this paper the KEAC states that Quebec must uphold their commitment to protect the environment on Plan Nord lands. The KEAC welcomes the Plan Nord, so long as concrete targets are set for protected areas. (KEAC, 2011, p. 3) They advise that the government increase their protected area lands and quickly in Nunavik if they hope to reach their objective by 2035. Another recommendation from the KEAC is that the government must consider category II lands of the Inuit and their proposed “areas of interest for conservation and non-industrial development” (Plan Nord 2015). The Plan Nord must consider this protected category II land first when deciding which areas will be conserved for non-industrial development (KEAC, 2011, p. 5).
The JBACE created recommendations to the government regarding the Plan Nord as well. After reviewing the Plan Nord the JBACE also welcomed the government’s plan to set aside 50% of Plan Nord lands for conservation. Their recommendations are similar to the KEAC’s that the government must work to define these lands. They state that lands that will be set aside for environmental protection must be given priority and chosen through a well-defined process. Protected lands cannot just be remnant lands not chosen for industrial development. They provide four guidelines for choosing land suitable for conservation:
- The size of the land must be considered. It must be an area large enough that conservation would be worthwhile and contains enough distance from any industrial development areas.
- The area must represent a good range of biodiversity, species and ecosystems which are particularly vulnerable. This will ensure that valuable land is being conserved for a wide range of environmental concerns.
- Conserved areas must maintain the interconnectivity of wildlife in it. The government must insure the land is large enough that species can still interact naturally.
- Any land that holds cultural significance for the Cree people should be considered for protected areas. By following these recommendations the government can ensure that appropriate lands are being maintained and remaining land can be developed by the Plan Nord. (JBACE 2011)
The JBACE has also recommended that a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) be completed for the Plan Nord. ”A strategic environmental assessment is a planning tool that can be incorporated into development plans, policies and programs” (JBACE, 2010, pg. 2). Specifically the SEA should provide a more in-depth analysis of the transportation network and the resulting long-term environmental and social impacts. A SEA would provide a strategic framework for development rather than a just providing the most likely outcomes from development.
After reviewing the Plan Nord and conducting consultations within Inuit and Cree communities, both the KEAC and JBACE, provided recommendations to the Quebec government regarding future development of Plan Nord and environmental protection. Going forward the Quebec government is legally required to consider and further discuss the Cree and Inuit recommendations. Only through cooperation and serious environmental consideration can the Plan Nord be accepted by the Cree and Inuit and continue to develop on their lands protected by the JBNQA.
Ellis, S. (2005) Meaningful Consideration? A Review of Traditional Knowledge in Environmental Decision Making. Arctic, 58(1), 66-77. Arctic Institute of North America.
Grand Council of the Crees. (2010). Grand Council of the Crees Supports the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment call for the Precautionary Principle on Forestry Roads. Grand Council of the Crees.
Grand Council of the Crees. (2011). Cree Vision of Plan Nord. Grand Council of the Crees.
Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee. (2011). Position Paper.
James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment. (2011). Recommendations Concerning the Implementation of the Quebec Government’s Commitment to Set Aside 50% of Plan Nord Lands for Environmental Protection and Other Non-Industrial Developments.
James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment. (2010). Toward a Strategic Assessment of the Northern Plan, Transportation Sector.
Lizduong. (June 2013). Le Plan Nord, le Plan Mort ou le Nord pour tous? Official Blog of the Concordia University Master of Environment Studies.
Noble, B. (2005). Integrating Human Health into Environmental Impact Assessment: Case Studies of Canada’s Northern Mining Resource Sector. Arctic, 58(4), 395-405. Arctic Institute of North America.
Peters, E. (1999). Native People and the Environmental Regime in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Arctic, 52 (4), 395-410. Arctic Institute of North America.
Government of Quebec. Environmental Assessment of Northern Projects. Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs.
Quebec. (2015). Plan Nord – Toward 2035 – 2015-2020 Action Plan.
Stevenson, M. G.. (1996). Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Assessment. Arctic, 49(3), 278–291.