The Plan Nord: Toward a Sustainable Development Model

LÉVIS, QC, May 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) applauds the sustainable development measures contained in the Plan Nord, released today by the Charest Government. The plan, almost two years in the making, will give Aboriginal people, the Quebec government, other stakeholders, environmental groups, and industry the opportunity to honour their commitment to protect half the area covered by the Plan Nord, preserving the environment and fostering biodiversity, while shifting to a new partnership approach in social and economic development projects.

Over the next 25 years, nearly 600,000 km2 will be protected to ensure the ecological integrity and biodiversity of this vast and sensitive area. Suzann Méthot, CBI regional director for Québec, commented that "the plan released by Nathalie Normandeau, Minister responsible for the Plan Nord, outlines a workable process that brings together environmental stewardship and integrated development throughout the 1.2 million square kilometer area it covers. We also acknowledge the leadership role of aboriginal leaders, the nation-to-nation relationships being built, and respect for ancestral aboriginal rights—a long-standing wish of ours."

The Role of Aboriginal Communities

While the Plan Nord specifies that the Quebec government will be flexible to allow aboriginal communities that did not participate in drafting the plan to take an active role in decision-making on their territory, CBI aims to make sure that the Plan is implemented in a manner that addresses the concerns and obtains the consent of all involved communities.

"For the Plan Nord to be carried out to the satisfaction of the aboriginal communities, it will be necessary for government to engage them in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This means developing a strategy to open negotiations with nations including the North Shore Innu, who will be directly affected by the first major economic development projects carried out on their territory, including in the mining and energy sectors," commented Valérie Courtois, CBI's senior advisor on aboriginal relations. She also noted that "developing aboriginal communities and helping them flourish is integral to the development and success of Quebec as a whole."

The Importance of Integrated Planning

The Plan Nord's success also rests on the success of a number of significant initiatives such as much-needed mining reform and an energy strategy review to respond to the new development paradigms the Plan sets out for Quebec's North. Until these initiatives are achieved, the precaution is advised. A strategic environmental assessment is also needed to help planning and development by assessing, in advance, environmental impacts on local populations and previously undeveloped areas. In addition, the government must provide the necessary funding and expertise for communities to welcome industrial development and the associated population increase. Proper planning is critical to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of unplanned development, as seen currently on the North Shore and elsewhere in Canada.

"The Plan released by Minister Normandeau today lays a foundation for a new era of cooperation among all involved stakeholders and sets ambitious conservation targets. Now it is time to consider how this project will go forward. CBI is calling on the government to provide not only a coordinated development and investment approach, but also a management structure to harmonize regional planning efforts with those of all ministries involved to ensure an integrated management approach and implementation consistent with Plan Nord objectives instead of an uncoordinated silo-style system," Suzann Méthot added.

Toward a New Model of Sustainable Development?

CBI would like to congratulate all those involved who have worked hard to prepare the plan, including Premier Jean Charest and Minister Normandeau, who brought the partners together to develop a shared vision. However, the implementation phase will determine whether or not the plan becomes a model of sustainable development. We also commend the leadership of Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, who immediately set up a round table on conservation and who, we hope, will oversee the implementation of a sustainable vision for the Plan Nord.

"Up to now we have succeeded in implementing a set of objectives and principles with the potential to satisfy all the actors involved, but also to shake up the established order. The true challenge will be implementing the Plan Nord. We hope all partners will continue to work together to find new solutions to the obstacles we face, particularly in territorial governance and the respect for aboriginal title and ancestral rights. We hope our message will help raise awareness with new potential partners, leading to achievements as inspiring as our lofty goals, setting an example the world over," Suzann Méthot stated.

About the Canadian Boreal Initiative

The Canadian Boreal Initiative is the Canadian partner of the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign. CBI brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for Boreal conservation and sustainable development. It acts as a catalyst for on-the-ground efforts across the Boreal forest region by governments, industry, Aboriginal communities, conservation groups, major retailers, financial institutions and scientists.

SOURCE Canadian Boreal Initiative

For further information:

Debbie Cabana, 514-443-0706

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