Environmental Assessment of Northern Projects
This brochure aims to explain the characteristics of these regimes as well as the bodies responsible for implementing the social and environmental impacts assessment and review process and the project subjected to or exempt from the procedure.
Geography of the region
The Baie-James and Nord-du-Québec region, a little more than 1 million km2 in area, represent about two-thirds of Québec’s total land mass. It is located between the 49th and 62nd parallels of northern latitude.
Human presence in these regions dates back about 4 000 years. The Cree, Inuit, and Naskapi practice, to a large degree, a traditional way of life based on hunting, fishing and trapping. Formerly nomadic, they now live in permanent villages.
The Crees, who numbered 7 000 in 1977, are nearly 13 500-strong in nine villages today. Over the same period, the Inuit population has risen to over 9 000 from 4 900 with 15 Inuit communities spread out along the coast. In addition, there are close to 800 Naskapi Indians living in Kawawachikamach, in the eastern part of the region.
More than 20 000 non-Natives live in the region, concentrated mainly along the southern border. The economy of these communities is mainly based on natural resource development.
A wide-ranging, progressive pact
The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) is a social and economic pact signed by, on the one side, the Gouvernement du Québec, Hydro-Québec, the Société de l'énergie de la Baie James and the Société de développement de la Baie-James and, on the other side, by the Grand Council of the Crees of Québec, representing James Bay Crees, and the Northern Québec Inuit Association, representing Northern Québec Inuit. The Gouvernement du Canada is also a signatory of the Agreement.
Signed on November 11, 1975, the JBNQA was ratified by the Cree and Inuit through referendums held in Native communities.
The JBNQA is based on two equally important founding principles.1 The first is: "Québec needs to use the resources of its territory, all its territory, for the benefit of all its people." The other is: "We (the Gouvernement du Québec) must recognize the needs of the Native peoples, the Cree and the Inuit, who have a different culture and a different way of life from those of other peoples of Québec". The Agreement seeks to harmonize these two principles.
The Paix des braves and the Sanarrutik agreement
On February 7, 2002, Québec and the Crees signed a fifty years political and economic agreement. This agreement, dubbed the Paix des braves, marks the beginning of a new era in Québec and Cree relations, based on:
On April 9, 2002, Québec and the Inuit signed a partnership agreement on economic and community development in Nunavik. This twenty-five years agreement consolidates the harmonious relations between Québec and the Nunavik Inuit. It is named Sanarrutik, which means "development tool" in Inuktitut. This partnership agreement is based on:
Environmental protection regimes
The land claims system imposed by the JBNQA satisfies the needs of the Native people and those of the rest of Québecers. Category I lands are granted to each Cree and Inuit community for its exclusive use. Category II lands are buffer zones where Native people have the exclusive right to hunt, fish, trap and establish or operate outfitting facilities. Category III lands are public lands on which Native people can, while respecting the principles of conservation, carry on their traditional activities year-round, and on which they have exclusive rights to certain animal species. For these territories, the JBNQA established two particular environmental protection regimes for both sides of the 55th parallel.
After the signing of the JBNQA, the environmental protection regime north of the 55th parallel has been adapted to allow the Naskapis to participate in the environmental assessment of projects process. Specific measures are applicable to the "Moinier" region where the list of projects subject to the environmental assessment and review procedure corresponds to annex A of the Environmental Quality Act, while the information and consultation process is the same as in Southern Québec.
Participation of Native people
The environmental protection regimes defined by the JBNQA, and included in Chapter II of the Environmental Quality Act, are aimed at ensuring special participation to the environmental assessment process by the Natives so that they can protect the rights and guarantees granted to them under the Agreement. This participation is assured through consultation and representation mechanisms, within which the Crees and Inuit have major roles (table 2).
Issues requiring special attention
The intention of the JBNQA is that the governments responsible and organizations created to function within the environmental protection regimes must pay particular attention to the following issues:
Environmental advisory committees
Under the JBNQA, two environmental advisory committees were created, one for the region south of the 55th parallel and the other for the region north of the 55th parallel. The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) and the Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee (KEAC) are the bodies composed of Native, provincial and federal representatives which act as the preferential and official forums concerning environmental protection matters. In addition, they supervise the application and administration of the environmental protection regimes contained in the Agreement.
Bodies responsible for environmental assessment
Two committees and one commission were created to evaluate and review development projects within the jurisdiction of Québec:
For projects within federal jurisdiction, there are provisions for bipartite (Canada/Cree or Canada/Inuit) committees.
According to the JBNQA, the Administrator is the person required to make a final decision on the assessment and review of development projects, basing that decision upon the recommendations of the committees and commissions. This person is either the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, if the project is provincial in nature, the chairman of the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office, if the project is federal in nature, or the Administrator of the appropriate Cree Band Council, if the project is on Category I land.