Nunavik’s Québec Solidaire candidate targets environment, indigenous rights
“We also believes in a just society where everyone can live well"
The Québec Solidaire party candidate in the riding of Ungava promises a greener, more just Nunavik if he and his party are elected April 7.
André Richer, a Montreal-based dentist who worked in Nunavik through the 2000s, said one of his party’s first priorities is delivering on social housing needs across Quebec.
Province-wide, about 50,000 units are needed, he said, including about 1,000 in Nunavik.
“We’re very sensitive to this problem,” Richer said. “The government’s next budget must include a budget to deal with this.”
Richer also points to environmental protection in a sprawling riding that is now eyed for its resource potential, from mining to hydro-electricity.
“We’re a green party,” he said. “We know that this is important in Nunavik, where people have seen the impacts of climate change.”
“We also believes in a just society where everyone can live well,” he said. “The high cost of living in Nunavik is a social injustice.”
Richer said he understands the challenges delivering health and social services to each of Nunavik’s 15 communities. From 2001 to 2009, he worked as a dentist based out of Kuujjuaq and Kangisualujjuaq, visiting communities along the Ungava coast.
Providing health and social services to Nunavimmiut will always be a challenge due to geography in the region, Richer said, adding that he hopes to see services grow with the population.
While the population in Nunavik has doubled in the past 20 years, Richer said the number of dentists, for example, has not.
Richer said Québec solidaire is best equipped to serve Aboriginal communities in Quebec, pointing to the party’s commitment to apply the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and more specifically, Aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination.
“The Québécois cannot refuse to other peoples what they demand for themselves; the right to determination,” reads the party’s position paper on Quebec’s indigenous communities.
“Quebec Solidaire recognizes that equal relations with the First Peoples require that the assertion of Quebec’s “territorial integrity” must be replaced by the quite different concept of the necessary cohabitation on the same territory of sovereign peoples with the right to self-determination of their future.”
A Québec Solidaire government would sign agreements with all of Quebec’s Aboriginal communities that are experiencing development on their territories outlining the terms under which that development should happen.
Québec Solidaire has also publicly opposed Bill C-45, the federal omnibus legislation passed in 2012, which removed thousands of rivers and lakes from federal protection, including bodies of water to which Aboriginal groups have registered claims and declarations of interest.
But among Quebec’s sovereigntist parties, Québec Solidaire has been the most clear on its intentions: to hold a referendum in its first mandate.
“Québec Solidaire is sovereigntist — we want the independence of Quebec,” Richer said. “But we want to realize this together with everyone, Aboriginal communities included.”
“There are advantages to building our country – a green and just Quebec.”