Innu council campaigns against Plan Nord

The Pessamit Innu are launching an international campaign condemning Quebec's Plan Nord, saying it violates the rights of aboriginal people.
Raphael Picard, Chief of the Pessamit Innu band council, said further action, including disruption of local economic activity, is planned. (Radio-Canada)

Raphael Picard, the Chief of the Pessamit Innu band council says the Quebec government's plan for development in the north of the province, known as Plan Nord, violates the rights of aboriginal people.

Picard said he is planning on visiting investors and politicians in Europe and the United States to denounce what he calls the province's "bad-faith bargaining."

Talks between the northern Pessamit Innu and the province broke down over the weekend.

Picard says the community wants compensation for past and future development on Pessamit land, a total of $5-billion over the next 50 years.

The province says that demand is unrealistic and is offering about $350-million over the same period under the Plan Nord.

The province’s Plan Nord — or "Northern Plan" — was announced in May and promises energy development, mining, infrastructure, tourism and conservation in a sweeping set of projects that, according to the government, would receive $80 billion in public and private investment over the next 25 years.

"Mr. Charest is the worst liar of Quebec," said Picard. "Mr.. Charest said there [is] some agreement with the First Nation in Quebec to create the North Plan, it's not true."

On Monday, Jean Charest said he would keep the door open for negotiations with the Pessamit Innu.

"We have made an offer which is comparable to the type of arrangements that we have had with other communities, and yet they have turned it down," said Charest.

Picard said the Pessamit territory is strategically located, about 400 kilometers northeast of Quebec City. Major hydro transmission lines and two highways cross through it.
He also said the majority of First Nations and the Inuit who live in the territory continues to support the Plan Nord.

Geoffrey Kelley, Quebec's minister for aboriginal affairs, said he is disappointed by the breakdown in talks. But he said the Chief's demands are much too high.

Last spring, the Pessamit blocked a section of provincial Highway 138 over failed talks.

Picard said further action aimed at disrupting "local economic activity" is being planned.