Cree Heritage Park a first step to save the Broadback Valley

Feature story - May 17, 2011
Greenpeace supports today’s announcement by Quebec to create the Assinica Cree Heritage Park over 3,000 square kilometres of Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation territory but points out it is only a first step in saving the Broadback Valley conservation hotspot.

Flight over the Assinica River

In today’s announcement, the Charest government did not address proposals for protected areas put forward by Cree Nations of Nemaska and Waswanipi that neighbour the Oujé-Bougoumou territory even though the proposals from the three Cree Nations are complementary. The Broadback Valley in Nord-du-Québec, about 600 kilometres north of Montréal, contains some of the last remaining intact forest areas in the province and is at the centre of Greenpeace’s Boreal Forest campaign.

“The announcement of Assinica Cree Heritage Park is just the first step towards saving the Broadback Valley and we now hope that the Charest government will respond to the protection requests of the two other Cree nations that share this area, We support the Oujé-Bougoumou, Nemaska and Waswanipi Cree Nations in their demand for protection of over 10,000 km² of boreal wilderness in the Broadback Valley.”

- Nicolas Mainville, Greenpeace forest campaigner -

Greenpeace identified the Broadback Valley in its scientific report “Boreal Refuge” as one of the last large areas of intact wilderness in Quebec and a jewel of biodiversity that must be protected. This conservation hotspot, which includes the Assinica area, is one of the last refuges in Quebec of the woodland caribou, a species threatened with extinction that needs thousands of square kilometres of uncut wilderness to survive. Logging roads now threaten the intact forests of the Broadback and the caribou with encroachment.

“A number of major buyers of forest products inside and outside the country are closely monitoring what logging companies and the government are saying and doing with regard to the Broadback Valley. This area will continue to have a red flag in the marketplace until forest companies stop logging and the Charest government follows through with protection. The marketplace is increasingly demanding forest products that do not come from the habitat of threatened species, such as the woodland caribou, and are free of controversy and social conflict.”

- Mélissa Filion, Greenpeace forest campaigner -

While setting aside land for the Assinica park is notable, it protects less than one eighth of the Broadback Valley and is insufficient to save the woodland caribou herds in the area. It also does not respect the conservation aims of the Cree Nations: the Nemaska and Waswanipi Band Councils and Chiefs have sent two proposals to the Québec government demanding protection of over 8,000 km² in the Broadback Valley surrounding the Assinica Park.

Greenpeace supports the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and believes that governments and companies must recognize and respect the governance and authority of First Nations communities over their territories. This means it is essential that management and administration of the Assinica Cree Heritage Park fall to the Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation.