WENDAKE, QC, June 30, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - The words of the Premier of
Quebec, Mr. Jean Charest, highlighting in London the priority in terms
of working with the First Nations for the Plan Nord, did not convince the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec
and Labrador (AFNQL), Mr. Ghislain Picard. "Even though the majority of
the communities concerned by the project have yet to be genuinely
consulted, it seems that the priority is currently focused on seducing
the investors rather than the First Nations!" declared Mr. Picard.
"Yet, a concerted and inclusive development plan would be welcome, since
an increasing number of First Nations now have their own training and
development tools, bringing together more and more enterprises that are
emerging and open to partnerships. If it were to be more in line with
the First Nations realities, such a plan could be a very interesting
and promising vector of development to which all of the First Nations
would be tempted to adhere" added the Chief of the AFNQL.
Unfortunately, the Plan Nord excludes more First Nations than it includes. And yet, by virtue of the
Canadian Constitution as well as decisions of the Supreme Court of
Canada, the Quebec government is obligated to consult and accommodate
all of the First Nations concerned by the Plan Nord. It must also respect the obligations anticipated by the United
Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada
has recently endorsed. In particular, article 32 of the Declaration
stipulates that "States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with
the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative
institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior
to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and
other resources, particularly in connection with the development,
utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources." The
Chief of the AFNQL is calling for full and complete recognition of the
Declaration by the Quebec government, which has yet to do so, as well
as respect for its obligations. "For as long as our communities are
required to set up roadblocks so that the government will deem it
necessary to sit down and negotiate agreements, Quebec will not find
any allies among the First Nations. And yet these allies are greatly
needed for its Plan Nord" continued Mr. Picard.
Keep in mind that the Charest government accepted to meet with the Conseil des Innus de Pessamit, after they supported the community youth who opposed the Plan Nord and who, as a pressure tactic, had blocked, in an alternating fashion,
route 138 which crosses the reserve. Quebec and Pessamit then reached a
memorandum of understanding for the purposes of establishing the
general framework of a special negotiation process targeting dispute
resolution among the Innu of Pessamit. "This is not necessarily the
manner in which the First Nations hope to be consulted. If the priority
of the Quebec government is to work with the First Nations, then Mr.
Charest must review his approach" concluded Mr. Picard.
Is the Plan Nord destined to be just another missed opportunity between
the First Nations and the Québécois? That is not the hope of the First Nations - regardless of whether or
not they have already reached agreements.
About the AFNQL:
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization uniting the 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and
SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS OF QUEBEC AND LABRADOR
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