In the three decades since the Government of Quebec (“GoQ”) signed Canada’s first modern treaties, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (“JBNQA”) in 1975 and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (“NEQA”) in 1978, roughly a dozen impact and benefit agreements (“IBA”) between mining companies and Aboriginal groups have been signed in Québec. Surprisingly, the GoQ was not a party to any of them.
In the minds of Québec's people, the North's colonization begins with Curé Labelle. At that time, the idea of occupying the territory and developing the land through agriculture was the main leitmotiv. Building roads and railways often closely followed the topography of valleys and waterways. Later on, the second wave of development in the North was mainly centered on exploiting forest and mining resources. Several infrastructures were built to serve the new towns that sprang up near extraction or treatment facilities, like Chibougamau, Matagami and Schefferville, but while construction techniques had greatly improved, the environmental and social aspects were generally ignored in the planning and implementation of these projects.
Sustainable development should be an increasingly central focus of our actions, particularly for companies. This viewpoint is also supported by the fact that the Government of Quebec adopted the Sustainable Development Act in 2006 in order to provide a benchmark for its efforts in this area. Companies that develop projects in line with the 16 principles set out in the Act are in effect helping to address economic, environmental and social concerns raised by host communities, thereby facilitating project implementation.