A panel of three indigenous women spoke at Concordia University on Friday about their opposing stance on the Plan Nord and concerns regarding community violence.
The Plan Nord is an $80-billion project aimed at extracting natural resources and propelling economic growth in northern Quebec during the next 25 years.
Environmentalists and First Nations residents have criticized the Plan Nord for building on native territory. The Charest government introduced the project in May 2011, and the speakers present at Friday’s lecture expressed their wish that the newly elected Parti Québécois would not follow suit and instead, put a 40-year moratorium on the project.
“The Plan Nord is an evil plan as far as I’m concerned,” said Ellen Gabriel from Kanesatake, a Mohawk human rights advocate for indigenous people.
Denise Jourdain, an Innushkueu resident from a community near Sept-Îles on the North Shore, opposes the action plan as it poses several environmental risks. Jourdain spoke about her role as a mother and grandmother, stating she is against the Plan Nord because she would like to share the “gift of nature” with her family.
Jourdain focused on the difficulty First Nations people experience fighting for their land coupled with social problems within their communities. Gabriel agreed, recalling a conversation she had with a chief who admitted he didn’t want to give up his land, but felt trapped because he had nothing to offer his community.
“Politicians always talk about job creation,” said Gabriel. The Plan Nord is expected to create or consolidate 20,000 jobs a year.
“Creation of jobs at what cost?” Gabriel asked. “Why always the land?”
In regards to social problems in their communities, Gabriel also mentioned that violence against aboriginal women is five times higher than violence against aboriginal men. She recounted visiting the Cree community of Chisasibi, located to the east of James Bay, where she said most of the population were employees of Hydro-Québec, drawing parallels between what may unfold if the Plan Nord becomes a reality.
“As a Mohawk woman I will continue to fight,” said Gabriel. “It’s worth it. Our land is worth it.”