Quebec government touts northern land protection in Bill 65
”No known precedent for such an approach to biodiversity conservation”
The Quebec government introduced a bill April 17 to protect half of the lands covered by its Plan Nord, the 25-year scheme to develop northern Quebec.
Pierre Arcand, Quebec’s minister of sustainable development, called the Bill 65 an “international benchmark for sustainable development.”
“We are the first to go so far in the conservation and sustainable development of a vast territory,” Arcand said April 17 in Quebec’s National Assembly. “There is no known precedent for such an approach to biodiversity conservation around the world.”
But Parti Québécois member Scott McKay, the opposition critic for sustainable development, wasn’t impressed with the proposed legislation.
McKay, who slammed the bill as “cosmetic environmental protection,” said the bill distracts Quebecers from the true breadth of development that will flow from Plan Nord.
Roughly nine per cent of northern Quebec is currently sheltered from development, as parks, park reserves or protected areas.
With the launch of Plan Nord last May, Quebec pledged to increase that level of protection to 12 per cent of the lands above the 49th parallel by 2015.
Bill 65 includes a framework to protect 20 per cent of those lands by 2020.
And Quebec has already said it will work with Nunavimmiut to identify the remaining 30 per cent of lands to be protected by 2035.
But to date, some of Quebec’s suggestions for protecting parts of Nunavik appear to be of no interest to Nunavimmiut, Nunavik consultants say, because the areas are home to little wildlife and aren’t used for hunting or fishing.
Many in Nunavik also say they want to protect local river valleys and coastal regions.