Québec’s northern territory includes all of Québec located north of the 49th parallel and north of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf of St. Lawrence, an area of almost 1.2 million km2 that represents 72% of Québec’s total land mass.

It has a population of over 120,000 people, of whom one-third are Aboriginals from four nations (Inuit, Cree, Innu and Naskapi), living in 31 communities. There are also 32 non-aboriginal communities in the Baie-James, north of Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord regions.

The Plan Nord

Quebec's vision for northern development is articulated in the Plan Nord.

The Plan Nord is intended to develop the mineral, energy, forest, social, cultural and tourism potential of Québec’s northern territory and to create jobs and wealth both for northern communities and for all Quebecers in a spirit of respect for northern communities and the environment. By balancing the economic, social and environmental facets on which the Plan Nord hinges, the Québec government wishes to make it a reference in the realm of responsible, sustainable northern development and a unifying project for Québec society.

By 2035, the Plan Nord will have enabled the development of this rich resources area, for the benefit of its populations and of the whole of Québec, through an exemplary form of sustainable development based on a comprehensive, integrated, consistent and responsible approach.

The Plan Nord could not exist without a close partnership with the communities that inhabit this vast territory and in a manner consistent with the development priorities they have defined for themselves. The Plan Nord will be implemented in partnership with them.

Development of the North’s Economic Potential

The Plan Nord territory contains energy, forest, mineral and wildlife resources that Quebec intends to develop.

The territory covered by the Plan Nord produces all of Québec’s nickel, cobalt, platinum group metal, zinc, iron ore and ilmenite, and accounts for a significant portion of gold and diamond production. It is also a source of apatite, diamonds, lithium, vanadium, graphite (and graphene) and rare earths elements.

In terms of energy, Québec is the world’s fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity. It is the site of 75% of Québec’s installed hydroelectric capacity and has further untapped potential for hydroelectric, wind and solar energy generation.

Furthermore, Northern Québec contains over 200,000 km² of commercial forests, which account for more than 53 % of Québec’s operable forests. The annual allowable cut in the area covered by the Plan Nord is 11.8 million cubic metres of timber.

Finally, with its diverse cultures, unique landscapes and exceptional wildlife potential, northern Quebec has everything to become a world-class tourist destination.

Development and Wellbeing of Local and Aboriginal Communities

Québec has placed the local and aboriginal communities in the area covered by the Plan Nord at the heart of its concerns. In addition to creating the conditions needed for the development of the area’s resources, it is essential to focus on the living conditions of the people living in the area and to respond to their specific needs.

Québec wishes that the development of the North benefit the northern population as a whole, and not only the communities that host development projects. Support must be provided for communities placed under pressure by the establishment of large-scale economic projects in their vicinity.

Protection of the Environment and Biodiversity Conservation

Québec has a rich and unique Nordic heritage. It still retains vast stretches of land, in addition to lakes and rivers that are in pristine condition or have remained relatively undisturbed. The biodiversity of this vast territory, where the human footprint is still small and a high degree of naturalness can be found, constitutes an important symbol of identity for the people who live there and for the whole of Québec.

To protect the environment and conserve biodiversity in the North, Québec aims to, by 2035, dedicate 50% of the area covered by the Plan Nord to non-industrial purposes, protection of the environment and the safeguarding of biodiversity. It also aims to gain knowledge about the area’s physical and ecological environment in order to identify the most appropriate conservation measures and recognize the potential for development, and to ensure efficient processes for environmental assessment for development projects.

Conditions for Success

The vastness of the territory, the remoteness of the communities, the lack of links between northern and southern Québec and access to outside markets are all factors that may limit northern development. Québec will support the development of strategic transportation, energy and communications infrastructures.  

In addition, reliable, valid data is needed to ensure the sustainable and integrated development of northern Québec. Québec will, for this purpose, support the creation of the Institut nordique du Québec, an interuniversity research center that will bring together experts in social sciences, natural, health and engineering dedicated to the harmonious and sustainable development of the North.

The Société du Plan Nord

To coordinate and apply the actions needed to implement the Plan Nord, the government has chosen to create a governance structure adapted to the specific characteristics of the North and to the needs of local and aboriginal communities, the Société du Plan Nord. Its mission is to contribute, in collaboration with the representatives of the regions and the aboriginal nations concerned, as well as the private sector, to the integrated and coherent development of the area covered by the Plan Nord, in keeping with the principle of sustainable development and in accordance with the policy directions defined by the Government in relation to the Plan Nord.

For more information on the Plan Nord, visit www.plannord.gouv.qc.ca/en.