Quebec moves ahead on Nunavik’s Tursujuq provincial park
Boundaries to include Nastapoka River, seal lakes
At an event held Dec. 14 in Umiujaq, Quebec government officials said they will move ahead with development of Parc national Tursujuq, the third Nunavik park to be created under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
Following a lobbying effort led by the Kativik Regional Government, nearby communities and environmental advocacy groups, Quebec has expanded the park’s boundaries to include the Nastapoka River and the upper and lower seal lakes.
“Today, we can state proudly that, after four years of determined effort, our voices have been heard,” Maggie Emudluk, chairperson of the Kativik Regional Government, said in a news release.
The Nastapoka River, coveted by Hydro Quebec for its hydroelectric potential, was not included in earlier park boundary proposals.
But the creation of the park with expanded boundaries protects the area from mining, forestry or hydro development. Inuit harvesting is still allowed.
The Nastapoka watershed is valued by naturalists because of its landlocked salmon population and for a chain of inland lakes called Lacs des loups marins.
Also called “seal lakes,” these bodies of water are home to what is believed to be the only population of harbour seals that live in fresh water.
At public hearings before the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission in 2008 and 2009, residents of Umiujaq, Kuujjuaraapik and the Cree community of Whapmagoostui all said they wanted the park’s boundaries enlarged.
And by then, authorities had settled on the name “Tursujuq” in place of the awkward bureaucratic tongue-twister first used by Quebec civil servants: Parc National des Lacs-Guillaume-Délisle-et-à-l’Eau-Claire.
This past May, the Quebec government indicated that it was ready to enlarge Tursujuq’s boundaries to include most of the Nastapoka basin.
Parc national Tursujuq, covering 26,000 square kilometres, is the largest park to be created under Quebec provincial jurisdiction and is the third provincial park to be created within Nunavik.
The park, which lies between Umiujaq and Kuujjuaraapik, also includes Richmond Gulf, which is known as a “lake” in French: Lac Guillaume-Delisle.
In Inuktitut, it’s simply called “Tasiujaq.”
Inuit may continue to exercise hunting and gathering rights inside the park, which will be operated by the KRG.
The creation of infrastructure — such as a pavilion, a maintenance warehouse and an access road — will create jobs for some local residents, the KRG said.
Under Quebec’s Plan Nord scheme, 20 per cent of the lands lying north of the 49th parallel are to become protected areas by 2020, with a long term goal of setting aside 50 per cent of northern Quebec as protected areas.
“The North is a fragile environment, which suffers the impacts of climate change and faces strong development pressures due to the mining boom,” said Mélanie Desrochers of Nature Québec, an environmental lobby group.
Nature Québec praised the government for creating the park, but also urged them to move quickly on creating a woodland park to protect caribou habitat.
The Quebec environment and parks minister, Yves‑François Blanchet, and his parliamentary secretary, Parti Québécois MNA Scott McKay, attended the Dec. 14 announcement in Umiujaq, along with a long list of local and regional representatives.