ID No.: GQM00256
PRESS RELEASE 9
Report of the Commission sur la gestion de leau au Québec
ABORIGINAL INVOLVEMENT IN A QUÉBEC
WATER AND AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM POLICY
Québec City, May 3, 2000 The report submitted to Québecs Environment Minister by the Commission sur la gestion de leau au Québec states the importance of water to the Aboriginal way of life and stresses the need to ensure that Aboriginal people are closely involved in the Québec governments future water and aquatic ecosystem policy.
Underlying the fact that natural resources, especially water, on territories that are the subject of Aboriginal land claims will likely be a key determinant in Québecs development opportunities, the Commission says that Aboriginal people are essential partners in the management and development of water resources. The results of public hearings held in Aboriginal communities suggest that the directions and implementation of a water and aquatic ecosystem policy that reflects the communities aspirations cannot be separated from issues of a more political nature. Although land claims remain unsettled and greatly exceed the Commissions mandate, their importance and settlement will be determining factors in the implementation of a Québec water and aquatic ecosystem policy. The report stresses the need for Aboriginal relations to be incorporated into the policy and its stated directions.
Where public consultations are held on issues affecting all of Québec, the Commission recommends that the government specify the consultation procedure applicable to Aboriginal groups, especially in territories covered by existing agreements.
The BAPE Commission deemed it essential to obtain the opinion of Aboriginal groups during its Québec-wide hearings on water management. To this end, special hearings were organized in certain communities to allow First Nations to express their views and define a means of collaboration with the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) and the Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee (KEAC). The concerns and proposals that came out of the hearings held in the James Bay territory, in conjunction with the JBACE, and in Nunavik, in conjunction with the KEAC, are contained in a separate chapter of the Commissions report.
The joint BAPE-JBACE Commission proposes, among other things, redoubling efforts to solve the drinking water problems in the Cree communities of Eastmain, Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui. Before establishing a water and aquatic ecosystem policy for Québec, the joint commission feels the government must first establish the state of knowledge and related gaps with regard to water resources, including environmental follow-up studies conducted in the James Bay territory.
For its part, the joint BAPE-KEAC Commission proposes that the Québec government immediately allow the use of drinking water analysis techniques adapted to the Nunavik context. As regards public health and the protection of water resources, this joint commission considers current wastewater management to be inadequate and says it is urgent that proper treatment systems adapted to the territory be set up. Furthermore, the government should establish a process for designating ancestral rivers in close cooperation with the Inuit authorities.
For further information, the full report is available on the Internet at www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/eau. Copies may also be ordered by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (418) 643-7447 or, toll-free, 1-800-463-4732.
Serge Labrecque, Information Officer
Telephone: (418) 643-7447 or 1-800-463-4732
Ó Gouvernement du Québec 2000