April 17, 2020 – Kuujjuaq, Nunavik – Makivvik, the birthright organization which represents the Inuit of Nunavik, is strongly opposed to the resumption of mining activities in the Nunavik region, as announced on Monday by the government of Quebec. The decision was made unilaterally, without consultation whatsoever with the Inuit, by the Quebec government and was further supported by a directive issued by the Nunavik’s Director of Public Health, and Nunavik’s Director of Civil Security to partially lift the travel ban to Nunavik for the purpose of the reopening of the mining sites. Inuit account for the vast majority of the population in Nunavik and need to have a say on major regional issues such as this one. Miners started returning to the region yesterday.
“Makivvik will not entertain the opening of any mines at this time in Nunavik. This is very dangerous. The Inuit elected officials in the communities and in the different regional organizations need to be heard and need to make the decisions and call the shots. Nunavik cannot and will not be governed by civil servants who may be tempted to use the pandemic to empower themselves” says Makivvik President Charlie Watt. “ We have written numerous letters to Quebec on different issues related to the pandemic and they have not responded…not even an acknowledgement of receipt.”
Nunavik Inuit are insulted by these unilateral actions by the Quebec government, which open old wounds. “We saw this happen in the early 1970s when then-premier Robert Bourassa unilaterally announced the damming of rivers in Nunavik to build the James Bay hydro-electric project,” said Charlie Watt. “We also witnessed it in 1977 when Rene Levesque unilaterally created Bill 101 that would have tarnished Inuktitut without our consent or consultation. We had protests in Kuujjuaq and other villages, and engaged in civil disobedience resulting in a Nunavik exemption from the French only requirement in Bill 101 to protect the Inuit language. These unilateral decisions must stop now.”
Makivvik does not want history to repeat itself and is asking Quebec to review its decision on reopening the mines in Nunavik, and to include the voice of the Inuit in its consultations. As the signatory to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Raglan and Nunavik Nickel Agreement, Makivvik is the political representative of the Inuit of Nunavik, and this is without question. Quebec can’t ignore Makivvik and has to fully respect the spirit and intent of the JBNQA. The Inuit can’t accept to go through another bad episode of colonialism in 2020.
“The pandemic does not mean there is no longer a duty to consult with Inuit,” said Charlie Watt. “We are very concerned about the spread of the coronavirus as a result of reopening the mines. We don’t believe the conditions will completely protect the Inuit population from coming in contact with potentially infected people returning to the region.”
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Makivvik is the land claims organization mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivvik’s role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth by providing assistance for the creation of Inuit-operated businesses in Nunavik. Makivvik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty, and education of Inuit in the communities.