Since the rejection of the Harper government’s last budget, it has now been a few weeks since the candidates in the coveted federal riding of Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou have been out to vie for your votes.
Between incumbent Yvon Lévesque for the Bloc Québécois, Romeo Saganash, the first Cree to ever run as a candidate for the NDP, Léandre Gervais running for the Liberals, Jean-Maurice Matte for the Conservative Party and Johnny Kasudluak running for the Green Party, there is indeed a bounty of worthy candidates to choose from.
However, the major question is – who truly does deserve your vote?
The Nation spent several days chasing down the candidates and their party leaders to see who has the best to offer northern Quebec and what each party can do for the riding.

Romeo Saganash, New Democratic Party

Since the rejection of the Harper government’s last budget, it has now been a few weeks since the candidates in the coveted federal riding of Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou have been out to vie for your votes.

Between incumbent Yvon Lévesque for the Bloc Québécois, Romeo Saganash, the first Cree to ever run as a candidate for the NDP, Léandre Gervais running for the Liberals, Jean-Maurice Matte for the Conservative Party and Johnny Kasudluak running for the Green Party, there is indeed a bounty of worthy candidates to choose from.

However, the major question is – who truly does deserve your vote?

The Nation spent several days chasing down the candidates and their party leaders to see who has the best to offer northern Quebec and what each party can do for the riding.

Romeo Saganash made Cree history on March 31 when he announced that he would be the New Democratic Party candidate in the riding as he is the first Cree to ever run for the position of an MP.

“It was a question of leadership for me. I look at the other leaders and I think that the Liberals are kind of unstable. I don’t trust Steven Harper. And as for Duceppe, the Bloc is not even a national party. I think the best choice is going with Jack Layton’s leadership,” said Saganash.

And yet, Saganash was modest about being the first Cree to run. He spoke just as excitedly about being the first Cree to have graduated from law school from the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1989.

While this may be his first foray into federal politics, Saganash is an experienced political veteran having worked for the Grand Council of the Crees since 1981.

He was first given the opportunity to go to the United Nations with former Grand Chief Ted Moses and the late Bob Epstein in 1984 to work in consultation on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Working later on in Government Relations and International Affairs for the GCC, Saganash was able to take his own place in the Declaration’s history. He followed and contributed to the process diligently until the UN General Assembly adopted it in 2007.

However, much to his dismay, while Canada did sign the Declaration recently, Saganash believes it doesn’t have much meaning in this country under the Harper government.

“When you carefully read Canada’s endorsement of the Declaration, Harper is essentially saying, ‘Yes we endorse the Declaration but we will continue to do what we do now’.”

But, Saganash said if the NDP were in charge of government, this would not be the case since it was the NDP in the first place that passed the motion that pushed Harper into signing and party leader Jack Layton who also managed to get the Prime Minister to make the 2008 Residential School Apology.

Looking at the NDP’s track record when it came to Canada’s First Peoples was what convinced Saganash that the party has done what is needed to show their openness.

That openness doesn’t begin and end with the three different Aboriginal groups within his riding. According to Saganash, by representing the NDP he has the most to offer the constituents of the riding in terms of rights, interests and economics.

Saganash believes that having worked towards partnerships, mutual respect and cooperation between different peoples of the region during his tenure with the Grand Council, that he is aware and capable of serving the interests of every demographic in his riding. Working on the relationships between these demographics would be his first order of business should he be elected.

“If you consider all the global challenges that we have today, whether it’s climate change, environmental protection, resource development, water or the future of Indigenous people, we have an opportunity here to show leadership on how to tackle these challenges in this riding,” said Saganash.

At the same time, Saganash’s decision to run hasn’t come without controversy. Within his first week of campaigning he drew criticism from Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou incumbent Bloc MP Yvon Lévesque.

Lévesque told Le Frontenac newspaper that “some voters will no longer support the NDP now that the party is running an Aboriginal candidate,” implying that constituents would be too racist to vote in an Aboriginal. He also implied that the NDP had made a mistake running his longtime “friend” as a candidate.

Though Lévesque has since retracted the statement and apologized both to the Aboriginals of Quebec and the voting public, Saganash is still reeling from the incident.

In response, Saganash said he and Lévesque are not really friends but just acquaintances, who have attended some of the same official functions but have never spent any time together.

“Yeah, he’s called me Romeo, I call him Mr. Lévesque,” said Saganash.

Saganash said he was truly horrified by Lévesque’s comments. He would have expected this kind of a statement to be made during a different era, like in 1960 when Aboriginals were first given the right to vote in federal elections.

“I was totally stunned by his statements because he’s the incumbent and he’s supposed to have experience as a politician. To say that kind of thing in the middle of a campaign just stunned me. Above all, I thought that these types of statements were a thing of the past,” he said.

Moving away from the incident, Saganash believes he is fundamentally the best candidate for the region because he speaks the “languages” of the region, both literally and metaphorically. He said becoming an MP isn’t something that he would take for granted. That his work would be based on mutual respect and getting the people of the region to work together within this context of mutual respect and cooperation.

“I am a better pick because I speak their language, in general terms, not just language as such, because I know how politics work both in Ottawa and in Quebec City because I have been to parliamentary commissions and meetings with ministers. I also speak three out of the five languages spoken in this riding. I don’t speak Inuktitut but I understand a bit of Algonquin because the roots are very similar. My experience of the years will serve me in this capacity,” said Saganash.

Jack Layton, New Democratic Party

Party leader Jack Layton also endorsed Saganash as the best person for the riding.

Layton said when he first met the candidate at a NDP congress, where Saganash was delivering a speech on the environment, human rights and the role of the land in First Nations communities.

Layton quickly realized that the values of the NDP and the ones derived from the wisdom of generations of Elders had a lot in common.

“Now that Saganash is a candidate he is able to carry that strong message about the importance of the environment and of economic development where everyone gets to be a part in it. He has also shown he’s able to provide real leadership as seen in negotiations with the Quebec government for various settlements and financial matters and rights issues,” said Layton.

Part of Layton’s plan to get Saganash a seat in parliament isn’t just about building a NDP stronghold up north but about making sure the House of Commons hears about the needs of Aboriginals from actual Aboriginals instead of others representing them.

“I know other parties have had Aboriginal MPs before, but the NDP puts a lot of emphasis on community values, on rights, on sharing and working together. These reflect the values that have been passed down through the generations and so there is a harmony between the NDP and a Cree leader who has stepped forward to become our candidate,” said Layton.

Should the NDP win the riding, Layton said that housing would be a major issue to be addressed because of the severe lack of it in so many Aboriginal communities.

This would be done while simultaneously empowering those in the region in terms of employment and the ensuring that there is education available so that everyone can participate in that employment. That the “paternalistic” approach the federal government had in the 1950s, to come in and simply lay down housing where they chose to would be a thing of the past.

But most of all, Layton said he would like to encourage everyone to come out and vote, particularly those who have never done so before, be they youth or Elder.

Yvon Lévesque, Bloc Québécois

Incumbent Bloc Québécois MP, Yvon Lévesque is confident that he’s the man to represent the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding because he is a man of the people, having lived in Val-d’Or for most of his life.

Though born on the Gaspé Peninsula, Lévesque, 71, has lived in the city since 1954 and jokes that he’s “not a new guy to Abitibi-James Bay-Eeyou.”

But, Lévesque said he’s the best candidate for the region not just because he has lived amongst the people for over 50 years but because he has also represented and worked alongside them.

Prior to his life in politics, Lévesque was a union representative for the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), the largest union in James Bay and all of northwestern Quebec, for 15 years. He was also their representative in adjudication hearings.

Lévesque said the Bloc is the best party to represent Canada’s largest riding because it can focus on the needs of the province, including the interests of First Nations.

“The Bloc represents Quebec only. We are a minority in Canada as are the First Nations peoples,” said Lévesque.

This means that the Bloc really doesn’t mind making other parties mad because Quebecers have special needs and the party will fight for the needs of the Quebec people, including First Nations. If this makes people in other provinces or other ridings that aren’t Bloc angry, so be it.

Should he retain his seat, Lévesque said he will continue to fight against the federal government’s new Nutrition North program that began on April 1, because it completely fails those in the north.

While the program is supposed to lower the costs of nutritious foods, such as fresh produce and lean meats, it also means an increase in the costs of food items that the government doesn’t prioritize for a subsidy.

It’s supposed to be a revamping of the Food Mail program that was started in Val-d’Or in the 1950s but, according to Lévesque, some residents will now be seeing almost 1000% increase in the cost of some food items.

“The distributors are currently paying the transport but this will now be transferred on to the customers. This will make food much more expensive for customers. Whereas they were previously paying 80¢/ kg, they can now pay up to $12.71/kg. The rise in costs for places like Chalk River will go up something along the lines of 971%,” said Lévesque.

Lévesque said he has been fighting this program since it was announced and the first MP to take it up with Indian and Northern Affairs. Though he can’t promise that he will be able to stop the new program, he has said that reelection will mean furthering this fight.

Lévesque also said he’s the ideal candidate for his riding because his ideas are in line with those of former Quebec premier, and distant relative, René Lévesque.

Lévesque’s father was a third cousin of the former premier and that he’s also no taller than his 5’3” relative. Having been a good friend of the former premier, he said that it was the late Albert Diamond who told him to carry on René Lévesque’s cause.

By this he means that all Quebecers, including First Nations, should be able to participate in a strong Quebec economy and benefit from the programs available in Quebec society the same way that the federal government works to ensure that immigrants get that same participation.

This concept isn’t just about creating employment but ensuring that there is training available so that people in the region can get the jobs that they want. Lévesque said the Bloc has been working hard to ensure that the fibre-optic program is established everywhere so that people in remote communities can receive online training.

In terms of the Bloc being the better party to vote for, Lévesque said his new competition, Romeo Saganash of the NDP, is no match because the NDP will never form Canada’s next government, plus he believes that the “NDP is going down.”

“They have been around for 60 years now and they’ve never had more than 30 MPs. I doubt that they will make it over the 30 mark this time either,” said Lévesque.

As for the controversy over his remarks regarding Saganash being a poor choice for the NDP, Lévesque said his words were taken out of context and it was a mistake.

“I would never think about speaking against Crees or white people. There are people in the Cree nation who would rather vote for Romeo because he is a Cree and he may know Cree culture better. But for those in the south, I know what is coming in the future much better than Romeo does and this has nothing to do with First Nations or non-Natives. I feel sorry because my words were misinterpreted,” explained Lévesque.

Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Québécois

Lévesque’s party leader, Gilles Duceppe, also took the time to speak to the Nation to show why his candidate is the best choice for voters in the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding.

“Lévesque is the right choice because he did a hell of a job supporting First Nations’ demands every time he was asked to. He went out and met the Cree as well as the Inuit and the Algonquins in his riding, which is the largest riding in Quebec, if not Canada. It stretches from Val-d’Or to Kuujuak,” said Duceppe.

Duceppe said Lévesque has always shown his commitment to the Aboriginal people of Quebec and Canada over his seven years as an MP and Lévesque’s fight against the Nutrition North program is another fine example of that.

As for the controversy over Saganash, Duceppe stands firmly behind his candidate despite the fact that NDP leader Jack Layton called for Lévesque to be dropped as a candidate.

“He tried to say something using the wrong words and he apologized. When I saw Alexi Wawanoloath, who was a member of the National Assembly for the Parti Québécois, he spoke about how it was Yvon who convinced him to get into politics and he has always supported Yvon,” said Duceppe.

“We shouldn’t judge someone on the error of expressing something badly in comparison to everything they have done before.”

It’s not just Lévesque who has stood firm and delivered when it comes to the rights and needs of Canada’s First People, Duceppe said the Bloc as a whole has always fought to improve the situation of Aboriginal peoples not just in Quebec but across Canada. Much in the vein of René Lévesque, who recognized the rights of the Cree in 1985, Duceppe said his party will continue to recognize Aboriginal rights and fight for Aboriginal peoples.

“The Paix des Braves, signed by Bernard Landry and Ted Moses, recognizes that Crees are not Québécois, they are Crees and we have to have that nation-to-nation approach,” said Duceppe.

Johnny Kasudluak, Green Party

Running for the Green Party of Canada, Johnny Kasudluak, 29, from the Inuit community of Inukjuak (formerly Port Harrison), may not have any political experience but he isn’t short on life experience.

“I’m a jack of all trades really,” said Kasudluak, with a warm giggle though that’s really an understatement.

He is currently the co-owner of a company that has a contract with Environment Canada to operate the local weather station.

Though he only graduated with high-school leaving credits and spent some time in college, he possesses two culinary certificates from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Ottawa. Working this angle to its full potential, Kasudluak runs a catering business and is a culinary instructor.

He has also been a field supervisor for Air Inuit and worked as a police officer (special constable) for the Kativik Regional Police Force.

Kasudluak said his foray into politics isn’t based on his previous work experience, but his experiences witnessing the overall social conditions of his region and fears for other Aboriginal communities within his riding that may be facing similar hardship.

“We have been neglected. We have been given the money that was agreed upon for the municipal and regional services, but at the end we are always forgotten and left to our own devices,” said Kasudluak.

Being forgotten, Kasudluak said, really rings true when it comes to Bloc Québécois MP Yvon Lévesque, who most people have never met. Kasudluak said that out of the people he polled, only 1% of them said they had seen Lévesque once and that was usually at the airport.

Though First Nations communities in the riding vary in size, Kasudluak said they all share the same problems: poverty, high cost of living, and a lack of social housing that results in multiple families living under one roof.

In his home community, Kasudluak said these problems are ever present. He sees and then hears his own family members plead over the local radio for food because they simply can’t make ends meet.

Kasudluak is not a supporter of the current switch the federal government has undertaken from supporting the previous Food Mail program to the new Nutrition North program that sees an increase in subsidies for nutritious foods, like fresh produce and lean meats, but cuts subsidies for other staples, such as flour, dried items and canned foods.

“This is just such an insult from our government. They are the ones supplying the subsidies and are aware of the high cost of living. They have not kept the rest of the country informed about what it is like up north,” said Kasudluak.

Kasudluak said he saw the price of a 2.5kg bag of flour skyrocket from $7 to $11 in one week under the new program and now he wonders how his people will be able to afford to make bannock.

He sees the new program as just another means of the government controlling their intake as the Inuit don’t have as much access to traditional foods when they can’t afford a snowmobile and other necessities to travel to the hunting and fishing territory.

“They are now stuck in their homes, begging for food over the radio,” said Kasudluak.

The high unemployment rate within the Inuit communities also contributes to this brutal circumstance, which is why he wants to see a change and decided to run as a candidate.

Kasudluak said he would start making a change by allocating funding through the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation to see the construction of 1000 new homes for the region of Nunavik alone.

This would be the minimum for the Crees communities that are also in need of new housing and he would see to the needs of the Algonquin communities. This construction boom would create a number of new jobs that would help all these communities.

Kasudluak said he would also see that the Elders of Nunavik would see a 25% increase to their guaranteed income supplement that would also be applicable to those who are currently retiring.

He would also increase funding to build more residences for the Elders and ensure that Elder abuse in Aboriginal communities stops within these establishments.

The creation of initiatives for youth employment and education, including tax incentives, would also be a priority if Kasudluak were elected in order to create better futures for the youth. Programs for suicide prevention are also needed and this is something he would work to increase.

As for the southern portion of the riding, Kasudluak said he would look to increase employment through sustainable forestry programs should he be able to get companies on board.

In terms of going greener, Kasudluak said he would support individual initiatives and proposals by citizens in the region and that his government would provide for tax incentives for those willing to implement energy-saving measures within their homes.

Kasudluak said the Green Party is the way to go for his riding. He feels the party is in line with his traditional values and that it can best represent the needs of the Inuit and all of the people within the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding.

Elizabeth May, Green Party

Green Party leader Elizabeth May believes that Kasudluak really is the best fit for the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding based on his previous accomplishments and contributions to his community.

She spoke of how in his formative years he served in the Junior Canadian Rangers, and volunteered on the local youth committee and the youth radio station CINY-FM, and the fact that he was a delegate to the National Inuit Youth Council.

May listed Kasudluak’s time spent serving his community as a police constable. She said at the request of the community’s Elders and local politicians, he had set up and moderated a Facebook page on regional politics for all of Nunavik to give the people a voice. For her, this shows Kasudluak’s commitment to his people and the local political forum.

“Johnny is actively engaged on issues vital to our northern communities – fighting to strengthen environmental regulation, pushing for Canada to take real action to meet the ideals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and addressing climate change which is already affecting the peoples of the Canadian North,” said May.

It is her belief that the voters of the riding will find no more dedicated, harder-working representative to be their voice in Parliament.

“I’ve always voted for the candidate who best represented my hopes and dreams for Canada. If I lived in Nunavik I would cast my ballot for Johnny,” said May

The Greens can do so much more for the voters of the Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou riding because they are the only party willing to talk about and take action on many of the major issues that matter to voters in northern communities.

“I was the only leader to address First Nations issues in the 2008 leaders’ debates. Our platform has pledged $2.4 billion for education, safe drinking water and improved housing for First Nations. We are the only party talking seriously about climate change in this election. We’re the only party talking about youth employment and education – words we’ll back up with over $3 billion to support local youth employment programs.  Finally, we are the only party that is committed to bringing respect and cooperation back to Canada’s Parliament.

“When the Harper government is mired down in attack politics and hyper-partisanship, the issues of ordinary Canadians, and especially the concerns of our remote rural and northern communities, get lost in the noise. Green MPs like Johnny Kasudluak will make sure your needs don’t take second place to politics,” said May.

Jean-Maurice Matte, Conservative Party


Senneterre Mayor Jean-Maurice Matte is taking another go at becoming MP for his riding, having run during the last election and lost.

Loyal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Matte said he is running for the Conservatives again because of their performance when it comes to Canada’s economy and Harper’s Action Plan for Canada.

“It is time for us in Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou to be there for Canada, particularly when it comes to being there at the table for decision-making. We need to stop being the opposition to everything.

“It seems very clear that Mr. Harper once again will be Prime Minister on May 2 and so we have the choice of being on the ice with him or just hanging out in the stands with the other parties,” said Matte.

While he said all the region has done in previous years is send Bloc MPs to Ottawa who are unwilling to work with the federal government, Matte said there is so much more to be gained by working with the Conservatives.

He promised that whatever action the Conservative government takes in the north would be respectful to the Aboriginals in the riding, and their values.

“People perceive Harper the wrong way; he is a good Prime Minister. He has built housing in some of the communities and what I intend to do on May 2 when I am elected as MP is to create a plan with the provincial government for the construction of 1000 housing units, say for Nunavik, over the next 10 years,” said Matte.

The goal with this plan isn’t just to improve the lives of families in Nunavik but also the perception of Harper in the riding. Matte said he had other plans for each of the regions to improve upon the image of the Prime Minister and the Conservative government.

Because the Conservatives would like further involvement in the provincial government’s Plan Nord, Matte said the Conservatives would create an Economic Development Canada office in Chibougamau for the Crees and other communities.

“I’ve been a mayor in the region for nine years and I’ve also been part of the regional board known as the Conférence régionale des élus and we have taken action to help these communities through this group. Once I am MP, I will work with them to have a better quality of life through social measures and housing and I will ensure that they have all the financing that they need to have a good quality of life,” said Matte.

While other parties have made similar promises, Matte said he’s not making promises as that is not what he bases his campaign on, instead these are things he will actually do when elected.

When asked about the social problems plaguing Aboriginals throughout Canada, such as the 581+ missing and murdered Aboriginal women, issues of poverty and circumstance that has led to this crisis, Matte insisted that so much of these problems can be resolved by sending a candidate to Ottawa who can actually work with the government instead of the Bloc Québécois.

According to Matte, a candidate like Yvon Lévesque simply does not have the power to help any of these communities when it comes to any major social issue because the Bloc works in opposition to the federal government.

“What I intend to do when I’m elected is that I’m going to go into those communities and listen to the people to make sure that whatever problems they have, somebody will talk to the right people in Ottawa to make sure that these problems get resolved,” said Matte.

And, because he has worked in the region in politics already for the last decade, covering a myriad of issues and dossiers in the region, Matte said he is the candidate who has developed the right contacts within the region to help the people of this riding. Combining that with the ability to work with Ottawa, Matte said he is the best candidate for the region.

Stephen Harper, Conservative Party

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also took the time to contact the Nation regarding why his candidate and party are the best choice for the Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou and a few other pressing matters he wished to discuss with the Nation’s readers.

According to Harper, Matte’s main objective is to improve the quality of life of families, seniors, young people and Aboriginals by creating economic growth in the region. He is in tune with the needs of the region and knows his riding inside and out having been mayor of Senneterre.

“I had the pleasure of visiting the region just prior to the election to confirm Mr. Matte’s candidacy and I know one thing for sure: Mr. Matte doesn’t just want to talk about issues, he actually wants to act and make a difference for his region,” said the Prime Minister.

As for the Conservative Party of Canada, Harper said it is the right party for the region, because it is the only party that truly represents the interests of Quebecers in the regions, and indeed Canadians in all rural and remote communities.

“The current Bloc Québécois MP is out of touch with the needs of his constituents and this is evidenced by the fact that he opposed our recent budget, a budget that kept taxes low and was focused on creating jobs. It was a budget that continued to deliver for the forestry and mining sectors, two key industries for the region.

“In addition to our focus on jobs and economic growth, our party’s commitment to helping improve the quality of life of Aboriginals in the North is unwavering,” said Harper.

This is why Harper said the Conservatives created the new Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The formation of this agency with $50 million in funding over five years was formally announced in August 2009 during his annual Arctic tours.

“We have also invested in important training, and we are helping local businesses and entrepreneurs grow the Northern economy.

“In fact, Canada’s Economic Action Plan committed over $300 million over two years to strengthen current programs, improve health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit individuals, and move toward greater integration with provincial and territorial health systems.”

Harper went on to say that the investment was supported by a $135 million infrastructure investment for the construction and renovation of health services that benefit First Nations, including clinics and nurses’ residences, resulting in over 40 new projects.

While he had the opportunity, the Prime Minister also requested a moment to make an address to the Nation’s readers regarding an important campaign issue for the Conservatives: the long-gun registry.

“The position of the Bloc Québécois on this issue is out of touch with the way of life of constituents of this region.

“We are the party that stands with rural Canada and that understands rural values and the rural way of life. We stand with farmers, rural Canadians and Quebecers from every region who are treated like criminals by Michael Ignatieff and his Bloc Québécois/NDP coalition because they own a rifle or shotgun.

“Only a Conservative-led majority government can finally scrap the inefficient and wasteful long-gun registry.

“Another major commitment the party has made during this campaign is to create a new hunting and wildlife advisory panel. This advisory panel would be comprised of representatives from various hunting, angling and conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, to ensure government decisions regarding issues like endangered species, wetland protection and nature conservation are based on solid science and balanced advice.

“Hunting, fishing and trapping have played a key role in Canada’s history. They remain central to the livelihood and traditions of many Canadians, including Aboriginal and Northern communities. They are also an important part of many local and regional tourism industries.

“Unfortunately, these legitimate recreational and commercial activities are sometimes threatened by unfair restrictions based on a misunderstanding of rural economies and conservation practices.

“The Conservative Party will always stand up for the rural way of life in the regions of Quebec.”
Léandre Gervais, Liberal Party

Running for the federal Liberals, Léandre Gervais brings his own contributions to the table. An engineer by training, Gervais has spent a lifetime working in the mining industry and has made strides in doing so as he is the vice-president of Canadian engineering giant, Genivar.

According to Gervais, a career in the mining industry would entirely influence his position as an MP because he believes that in order to have strong Canadian cities, the country’s regions must also be strong.

“Our regions’ strength is the exploitation of our natural resources and this includes the mines, the forests, fresh water and wind power. We must exploit the richness of our natural resources, but we must do this in harmony with the people in the region and also with the environment. We cannot leave our environment in a deficit for the next generation,” said Gervais.

While Gervais’ thinking is in line with Quebec Premier Jean Charest when it comes to developing the north through the Plan Nord project, Gervais said his interest is really in ensuring that the people in Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou participate and benefit from it to the fullest.

He said he wants to ensure that those who have decided to build their lives and families in this region get the best that Canada has to offer.

And, for those communities that do not want to see certain types of development, their rights should also be respected, according to Gervais.

“It is clear that if we want to develop the north, then people from the north need to agree with that. If the people don’t agree to develop something then we should wait.

“By waiting I mean that maybe the mining industry can convince some people or maybe they can change the project. Maybe the next generation will accept the project but if this generation doesn’t want it, we should wait. We should not force the local people to do something that they don’t agree with,” said Gervais.

Gervais said this standard should exist no matter if the community is Cree, Inuit or white, as projects shouldn’t be forced on others as they on