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There’s no way out of Nunavik

Quebec considers building a road to the isolated Inuit region


 

For the 12,000 residents of Nunavik, the Inuit region that spans the northern third of Quebec, getting out of town is a major undertaking. With no roads linking the 500,000-sq.-km territory to the rest of the province, a trip south requires a plane ride, which can cost upward of $2,000. But that could change: Quebec is considering extending the provincial road network to several Nunavik communities—a move that would “have a drastic impact socially,” says Raymond Mickpegak, mayor of Kuujjuaraapik, an Inuit village on Hudson’s Bay. “It will open North America to us.”

According to Transports Québec official Denis Blais, the province began seriously exploring building a road last May, at the behest of community leaders in Whapmagoostui, the Cree village that abuts Kuujjuaraapik. If it goes ahead, Blais says the project, which would bridge the 250-km gap to the twin Inuit-Cree communities, could cost up to $300 million. But Nunavik residents remain skeptical: “It’s over 15 years that I’m living here,” says Claude Depars, bar manager at the Auberge Qilalugak Resto-Pub in Whapmagoostui, “and it’s over 15 years that I’ve heard about the road coming soon.”

While many in the region are excited about the prospect of more affordable travel and a lower cost of living—food and supplies, which must be shipped by barge or plane, are marked up accordingly—there is concern about drugs and alcohol. “I know it’s in the community already,” says Mickpegak, “but with a road, the door’s going to be wide open.” If the plan goes ahead, he says checkpoints should be put in place to “control what’s coming in.”

For the foreseeable future, however, cars and trucks won’t be travelling in or out of Nunavik: a pre-feasibility study is slated to wrap up in 2010, but according to Blais, even if the proposal goes forward, it will be at least four years before construction can begin.


 

There’s no way out of Nunavik

  1. Whapmagoostui, QC population: 812.
    Kuujjuarapik,, QC population: 568.
    (source: Wikipedia)

    Surface distance between these two communities: ~250km.
    Estimated cost of a roadway btw these two communities: $300 million.
    (source: the above report)
    Total population along this roadway: 1,380.

    Get out your equalization cheque books, Canada! Quebec wants to build a road! Maybe we could talk them into putting in a high-speed rail line instead? Paging Mr. Wells! Paging Mr. Paul Wells!

    • The road will certainly open up the north for development and allow those of us who reside and work here to benefit from the jobs that will be made available during construction as well as ongoing maintenance. As an individual who enjoys driving as well as seeing this great country we live in I welcome a road to the north as it would allow me to further explore my country.

      Pete

    • Oups. Just wanted to set something straight here, created an account just for this.

      The text doesn't read that there are 250 km seperating Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui from each other, but that there are 250 km seperating those two communities, one of which is physically inside the other, from the Quebec roadway system. There are a lot more people living in Nunavik than 1380, a lot of people who currently need to cope with the reality of having access to food and other supplies by air only. A lot of people who don't have the means to cover the extra costs of sending essentials by airplane. And a lot of people the canadian government needs to stop ignoring because they live in a part of the country it's expensive to get to; they still live in Canada, and if Canada claims Nunavik territory as its own, it needs to ensure the well-being of those who reside there.

      • There are indeed more than a couple thousand people living in all of Nunavik. How does this come close to justifying $300 million for a road between two tiny villages?

    • The road might make economic sense against the background of the enormous costs of flying goods in and people out.

      • If you want to talk economic sense, you invite the people of these communities to pack up their kit and move someplace where there are roads and schools and stores already.

        So we are already beyond economic sense. A third of a B-yes-that's-bee-with-a-buh-Billion dollars for two communities with upwards of, at most, 1500 people. That just takes us to new levels of economic nonsense.

  2. Wow, it's taken the Canadian government this long to consider giving an option to Inuits to help them escape their impoverished and isolated homesteads, and maybe do a little something called socializing with the rest of the country….doye.

  3. i imagine it would be a pretty sceneic drive ! i bet quebec knows that the resources are up there too

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