Quebec Government, Inuit Natives Ready to Sign Deal

A 25-year treaty between the Quebec government and the province’s Inuit could provide at least $475 million (US$298 million) to the aboriginal economy and allow an increase in the province’s hydroelectric production.

KUUJJUAQ, Quebec April 10, 2002 [] Quebec’s 10,000 Inuit would use the government funds for roads, social services and to address local concerns such as the lack of jobs and housing. In return, Quebec would receive rights to explore hydro development on nine rivers. The rivers have the potential to boost the province’s hydro output within a decade by about 7,000 megawatts, or 20 percent of Hydro-Quebec’s current output. The economic impact of the deal could reach “billions of dollars,” according to a government official. Earlier estimates had estimated the value of the deal at $900 million (US$565 million). The treaty could help reduce the area’s unemployment rate, which hovers around 14 percent. The lack of jobs has been blamed for high levels of suicide, substance abuse, teen pregnancies and incidents of sexually transmitted disease. The deal, to be signed today, remains subject to approval by the 14 communities in Nunavik, a massive Inuit territory that covers 500,000 square kilometers in the top half of Quebec. Quebec estimates that 50,000 man-years of jobs could be created by the possible hydro projects, however much of the employment would be temporary. A more permanent source of jobs could be tourism, as the deal calls for the creation of five provincial parks in the pristine sub-arctic wilderness. Already, 3,000 people – almost half of them Americans – visit the region each year, mainly for hunting and fishing. Earlier this year, Quebec signed a similar $3.5-billion (US$2.1 billion), 50-year deal with Cree natives.
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