Quebec ministers met with Cree leaders on Monday to discuss the province's ambitious Plan Nord, a long-term road map for economic development in its farthest geographic reaches.
The province is keen to allay fears among First Nations leaders that the far-reaching resource development project will affect existing treaties, and impede aboriginal sovereignty over land use.
Deputy minister Nathalie Normandeau told some 100 Cree leaders gathered in Mistissini that the plan hatched by Jean Charest's Liberal government will be adjusted to reflect existing treaties with First Nations in Quebec.
The Cree are signatories to two treaties: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement land claim settlement; and the Paix des Braves, which provides for revenue sharing and joint management of mining, forestry and hydroelectric resources on Cree land.
Normandeau and her colleague Indian Affairs Minister Pierre Corbeil said they hope to work in partnership with northern communities when the Plan Nord project gets underway.
The plan includes $19 billion in new energy projects, which would add 3,500 megawatts to Hydro-Québec's grid by 2035 — enough to power roughly 600,000 homes. A significant portion of those megawatts would come from damming the Romaine River.
Premier Jean Charest has said the project could generate as many as 2,000 jobs per year between 2012 and 2016.
But some aboriginal groups who say the Plan Nord will raze their traditional way of life have resisted meeting with the Quebec government to discuss the project.
Five Innu communities boycotted a closed-door meeting with Normandeau late last year.
Chief Ghislain Picard, who heads the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, has called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene in the project.