Umiujaq, Quebec, Canada – At a press conference in Nunavik, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks Yves-François Blanchet confirmed that the Québec government will establish the Parc national Tursujuq, which will become the biggest national park in Québec, but also the biggest in eastern continental North America. Minister Blanchet made the announcement accompanied by his Parliamentary Assistant Scott McKay, Maggie Emudluk, Chairperson of the Kativik Regional Government (KRG), and Michael Gordon, Vice-President Economic Development of the Makivik Corporation.
“The Parc national Tursujuq has an area of over 26,000 km2, equivalent to 54 times the area of Montréal Island and will triple the area of the network of Québec’s national parks. It is the biggest protected area dedicated to the conservation of sensitive species in northern biodiversity and the natural landscapes of great beauty on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. Moreover, the addition of most of the drainage basin of the Rivière Nastapoka to the territory of the park enables us to achieve the goal of ensuring that protected areas cover the equivalent of 9% of Québec’s territory,” Minister Blanchet noted.
It is the third national park to be established in Nunavik after the Parc national des Pingualuit, located southwest of the Inuit community of Kangiqsujuaq, and the Parc national Kuururjuaq, located in the Monts Torngat east of Ungava Bay near the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq.
Maggie Emudluk, Chairperson of the KRG, added: “The new park will protect not only the environment but also areas that are essential to the traditional ways of life of the Inuit and the Cree. A determined, united pressure group headed by our communities and regional organizations working with conservation groups has fulfilled its mission, which will strengthen our confidence in the efficacy of the environmental protection regime established under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.”
“One of the key issues in the coming years will be to protect various wildlife and plant species destabilized, among other things, by climate change and human activities. It is, therefore, a question of acting locally, but of perceiving in a comprehensive perspective the preservation of the territory and its natural resources. That is what we are achieving today with the proposed park,” Scott McKay, Parliamentary Assistant, concluded.
A unique natural site
The future park will protect several sensitive components of northern biodiversity and habitats. Mention should be made, among other things, of the harbour seal population, a species likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable in Québec, which lives in the Lacs des Loups Marins sector. Beluga whales in the eastern Hudson Bay, harlequin ducks, short-eared owls and a unique population of landlocked salmon and over 80 rare plant species are also part of the territory’s varied biodiversity.
The establishment of the national park stems from collaboration between the Québec government, the Aboriginal communities of Umiujaq, Kuujjuarapik, Whapmagoostui and Inukjuak, the Makivik Corporation and the KRG. It falls within the scope of the implementation of the Partnership Agreement on Economic and Community Development in Nunavik (Sanarrutik Agreement), ratified in 2002.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Élizabeth Larouche noted that “the Québec government wishes in this way to abide by the agreements signed with the Aboriginal nations in its territory. This huge national park will protect natural sites that the Inuit and the Cree, who have frequented them for thousands of years, cherish, and will ensure harmonious relations between us.”
Minister responsible for the Nord-du-Québec region and Minister for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs and Sovereignist Governance Alexandre Cloutier wished to convey the following message: “The establishment of this new national park in Nunavik proves the importance of perseverance and negotiation to carry out a common project of this scope. The Parc national Tursujuq will be a source of pride for everyone who helps us to discover it in the coming years, but also Nunavik, the Nord-du-Québec region and Québec overall.”
Following the establishment of the Parc national Tursujuq, the government and the KRG will sign an agreement to assign to the latter the park’s management. In addition to a budget to manage the park, the KRG will have a capital expenditure budget estimated at $8 million over five years. Accordingly, $3 million will be invested initially to build a reception centre and garage-warehouse and to rebuild the access road to the Parc national Tursujuq.
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