The Celebrating Students series provides a snapshot of McGill Mastercard Student Sponsorship recipients. The Student Sponsorship Program was launched in 1997 to give students who are involved with special campus groups or clubs an opportunity to apply for additional funding for projects carried out by their groups.
Today, the Alumni Association features the Aboriginal Law Student Association’s Conference on Plan Nord:
The Aboriginal Law Students Association (ALSA), Environmental Law McGill (ELM) and the International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy (JSDLP), are three student run organizations within the McGill Faculty of Law. They recently joined forces to organize a cross-disciplinary panel discussion that brought together members of Innu, Cree, and Inuit communities, as well as representatives of civil society organizations and McGill researchers to discuss the potential impacts of Plan Nord for northern indigenous communities and the implications of the discourse of sustainable development in the context of such a large scale development project.
Plan Nord is heralded by its proponents as an exemplary development project. Contemplating the development of the energy, mining, forestry, biofood and transportation sectors across the area, it nevertheless promises to improve environmental protection and conservation practices and to ensure that affected communities will access an important share of the benefits. Aboriginal peoples represent a significant proportion of the coveted territory’s population, as some 33,000 members of the Cree, Inuit, Innu and Naskapi communities live on and use the land and water bodies to hunt, trap, fish and conduct other activities.
Noting the scarcity of information and public forums addressing the potential impacts of large scale development and issues relating to consultation and participation of indigenous communities, students from the ALSA, ELM and JSDLP hosted an event titled “Plan Nord: Perspectives, Challenges and Promises for Northern Indigenous Communities”. The well-attended event attracted students, academics, representatives of civil society organizations and of the business sector and members of the wider Montreal community. Some 150 dedicated individuals braved the temptation to sleep in, preferring instead to head over to the Faculty of Law at 8:30 on a chilly Saturday morning to hear Chief Ghislain Picard, Me John Paul Murdoch, Mr. Harry Tulugak, Professor Colin Scott, Associate Dean Jaye Ellis, Mr. Ugo Lapointe and Ms. Aurélie Arnaud speak of the challenges and aspirations of northern indigenous communities.
The encounter produced a rich and nuanced exchange between interveners who sometimes held widely diverging perspectives. From self-determination and the nature of a proper relationship between indigenous communities and the provincial government, to political participation, economic development, and the particular issues affecting indigenous women, panelists and members of the public engaged in a wide-ranging and in-depth analysis of crucial questions. All participants left, it is hoped, with important questions to reflect and act upon.
The student organizers would like to acknowledge their sponsors, namely the Law Students’ Association, the Hydro Quebec Fund for Sustainable Development Law, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, the McGill Alumni Association, International Journal on Sustainable Development Law and Policy and Café Santropol, for their financial and/or material contributions. Thanks also go out to the speakers, moderators, and the volunteers who made this event a great success.
Funds generated through the use of the McGill Mastercard support these types of student initiatives. To get yours, click here.