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A sustainable tourism network

Since the early 1990s, large areas of unspoiled landscapes in northern Québec have been protected to acknowledge the importance of nature and wildlife. Following the inauguration of the new Ulittaniujalik Park in 2016, it now comprises four National Parks covering a total of 37,000 km2 (25 per cent more than the size of Belgium). Inuit are acting as protectors and ambassadors of those representative wilderness regions, allowing them to thrive and evolve in the most ideal way as in the past. These natural areas are regarded as an expression of the Inuit’s rich natural and cultural heritage. By offering services and initiatives, Nunavik Parks makes such natural treasures an opportunity to discover and to preserve for future generations.

A Unique and Tailored Experience

People come from everywhere to visit the Parks in Nunavik. The National Parks Pingualuit, Kuururjuaq and Tursujuq offer all visitors exceptional outdoor adventures. Activities include: kayaking, canoeing, river descent, hiking, trekking, rock climbing, Nordic cross-country skiing, alpine snowshoeing, camping, paraskiing, landscape and wildlife observation, fishing, cultural activities and more. With adapted stays (long, short or weekend) Nunavik Parks strives to offer the best for everyone who wants to learn the Inuit culture, practice their favourite activities, or to experience the quiet vastness of the northern world.

D’Iberville base camp, parc national Kuururjuaq. © Marie-Andrée Fortin

One of the key aspects of Nunavik Parks organization lies in the active participation of the nearby community’s members as guides but also during cultural activities like throat singing, stone carving, berry picking, visits to archeological sites, construction of igloos, tales and legends telling, etc. Furthermore, this kind of engaging initiative allows the younger generations to take back traditional methods and knowledge from elders who share their knowledge.

Over the past years, wide efforts have been made to encourage inhabitants of Nunavik (Inuit and non-Inuit) to enjoy more of the Parks’ territory and its infrastructures. Weekends in the Parks answer the call of family and friends seeking a comfortable cabin from which to go snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, fishing, hiking and enjoying the expansive and breathtaking landscapes.

The number of visitors to Nunavik Parks has doubled since 2015, reaching 500. This is a testament to the implementation of appropriate Parks programming. Parks staff hopes this success will translate into even more visitors coming to share the beauty of the landscapes in future years.

“Preserving our living environment in a responsible manner is essential. It harbours a great part of our culture and history, a place we live in and belong to, for generations to come,” says Markusi Qisiiq, director of Renewable Resources department at the Kativik Regional Government (KRG).

Ulittaniujalik, a New Park Joins the Family

Now the second-largest National Park in Québec, covering a surface of 5,293 km2, Ulittaniujalik encompasses all the wealth of the George River Plateau. Following the creation of the parks Pingualuit (2004), Kuururjuaq (2009) and Tursujuq (2013), the region’s attention is now focused on Ulittaniujalik. Set in a unique environment, this protected territory and its mountains were created by the gradual retreat of an ancient glacial lake: the positions of former shorelines are still visibly etched across the landscape. It is these rock streaks that have lent the park its name, known by Inuit and Naskapi as ‘the place where there are shorelines’. First Nations and Inuit have shaped the identity and history of Northern Québec, as witnessed by the many archeological sites catalogued in the north and south of the region. In Nunavik, Inuit are largely present. The Mount Pyramid area also shows traces of more than 3,000 years of Amerindian occupation by Cree, Innu and Naskapi. The occupation of the territory by local populations continues today. The creation of Parc national Ulittaniujalik opens a new chapter for nature, historical, outdoor and genuine-experience enthusiasts.

Sustainability and Accessibility to the Territory

The concept of sustainable tourism is at the heart of the concerns raised by Nunavik Parks. It is the only network of national parks in Canada to be managed and developed by Inuit. “In terms of representation within the parks’ team, 85 per cent of staff and 100 per cent of guides-Park wardens are from Inuit roots,” explains Qisiiq. By involving local people and organizations for their knowledge, it increases support to Park activities and has direct and positive social, economic and cultural benefits on a local and regional scale, as well as fostering the sustainability of the network. Moreover, activities take place in respect and with the will of neighbouring communities. Therefore, visitors are assured to have an authentic experience and participate in sustainable touristic activities while contributing to increase the accessibility to the territory. By taking a plane from an Inuit company, staying at the CO-OP Hotels, buying local crafts and using Nunavik Parks services, visitors contribute to the economic development of the region.

Trekking to the parc national des Pingualuit crater. © Heiko Wittenborn

An Initiative for Beneficiaries

A new initiative, the Nunavik Park Beneficiary Access Initiative (NPBAI), was launched in March 2017. Beside the economic benefits for the communities (CO-OP, jobs, handicraft, services), the initiative hopes to bring more Beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) to the parks annually. NPBAI helps those who are eligible with airfare and offers 50 per cent off the costs of packages. The program is designed to encourage groups as well as individuals to stay and participate in one of the numerous activities offered by the network. The word “park” is known to Inuit as a “resting or relaxing place”. With this new financial support and the great offer of activities and packages, the network expects more Nunavimmiut beneficiaries to visit the Parks for the “relaxing” experience.

Submitted by the Kativik Regional Government For more information, please visit www.nunavikparks.ca