‘All rivers are arteries; we live off these things’, is a sentiment expressed by Pakesso Mukash, a Cree musician. The Quebec City elite who recently came up with Plan Nord obviously do not share his sentiments. The plan will be implemented over a 25-year period and is funded to the tune of $80 billion dollars by both the private and public sector.
Plan Nord is going to cause the destruction of Northern Quebec as we know it, with an area the size of France being affected and will displace as many as 43,000 indigenous Canadians during that time. The government aims to take advantage of the natural resources in the area to allow ecologically unsound activities that include logging, mining, and building of dams for hydroelectricity among other things.
The building of infrastructure is also going to negatively affect the area even more. The dire consequences that will be wrought not only on the environment but also on the indigenous communities who live in Northern Quebec, can rightly be compared to the environmental disaster of the Tar Sands in Alberta.
In the McGill Daily of October 25th, Jacqueline Brandon draws parallels to earlier colonization and points out that the predicament of the native Canadians of Northern Quebec is not much talked about in the Anglophone parts of Canada. But, as she puts it, “Remaining unaware and apathetic means learning nothing from the long history of violence, forcible loss of identity, and racism that characterized, and continues to characterize, colonialism.”
There is resistance from the indigenous people desperate to preserve their hunting or fishing grounds from exploitation, excavation and mining in ways that cannot be reversed. Hydroelectric projects change rivers forever, planting saplings cannot replace clear cut old growth forest. The consequences of Plan Nord will be felt for centuries and will have far-reaching effects that may not be seen now. There have been road blockades and resistance walks to express the anger and resistance with regard to this ecologically damaging plan on the part of the local people. Referenda which went against the corporations were conveniently ignored.
The poverty in these areas is considerable. It is hard for many to keep an eye on the future and resist development when the developers hand out highly attractive (but not necessarily generous) compensation packages, in their quest to profit hugely from the precious minerals beneath the Northern Quebec ground.
Developing natural resources is part of progress, but what boggles the mind in this case, is the fact that this kind of colonization which dispossesses indigenous communities and destroys large swathes is sanctioned by uncaring politicians happily residing in Quebec City for the benefit of private corporations. Premiere Pauline Marois has spoken out against Plan Nord, not because it damages the environment and totally disregards indigenous sovereignty, but because it is not a good deal for Quebec.