Northern Quebec: Vast and complex

Quebec is big enough to comfortably contain France, Germany, Britain and New Zealand with room to spare—yet so many of us lead our lives on a slim ribbon at the bottom of the province. But for some 42,579 Quebecers, the sprawling, majestic north is home. Over the past 100 years, the people of McGill University have been building strong relationships with the people of northern Quebec. Whether it’s bringing quality health care to remote communities, or developing the environmental knowledge needed to steward our incredible natural resources, McGill’s Quebec doesn’t stop at the 52nd parallel. Here is but a sampling of some of our recent activities.

  1. Dr. Paul Brassard, assistant professor in the Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, studies infectious disease control. He works with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services to study human papillomavirus infection in Inuit women.
  2. Students in the School of Urban Planning regularly look at issues relating to northern Quebec. Recent projects include an expansion plan for the rapidly growing Cree Nation of Wemindji, identifying potential locations for resi­dential development over the next 20 years.
  3. Anthropology professor Colin Scott is interested in how indigenous ecological knowledge relates to land and sea tenure. Since 1976, he has worked with coastal James Bay Cree communities to understand their approach to resource management.
  4. As part of the Paakumshumwaau-Wemindji Protected Area Project, associate professor of Wildlife Biology Murray Humphries collaborates with trappers to understand the diets and population structures of beavers and other traditional sources of food and fur.
  5. Clinical field placements are an important part of McGill’s Occupational Therapy Masters program. As part of their training, students like Naajia Isa have worked with northern Cree communities, helping elderly people adapt their lives to accommodate changing mobility and needs.
  6. Telehealth is one of the ways that RUIS McGill delivers specialized health care and services as close to people’s homes as possible—which is especially important when those homes aren’t accessible by any road. McGill health care providers use telehealth across the RUIS territory, but the practice has grown particularly strong in Nunavik’s 14 villages. With the advent of satellite communications—there aren’t landlines in the far north—these villages now have the infrastructure necessary to handle videoconferencing. Now, the communities aren’t just connected to distant cities, but to themselves; nurses working along at outposts are increasingly using the telehealth system to get real-time video consultations from doctors and colleagues elsewhere in Nunavik.
  7. The Inuit communities of Nunavik are experiencing the fastest growth rate of any area in Canada—yet their ability to build much-needed homes is the most affected by climate change. Jeffrey Cardille, an assistant professor in landscape ecology, has collaborated on a case-study of the community of Tasiujaq on the impact of permafrost thawing on infrastructure stability.
  8. In 1954, McGill opened its Sub-Arctic Research Station in Schefferville, Quebec. Current research projects include those of Andrew Gonzalez, director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, who is using northern forests to study the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss and the stability and functioning of ecosystems.
  9. Dr. Anne Andermann is interested in ensuring health practitioners and policy-makers have the necessary tools for making informed decisions. As a consultant for the Public Health Department of the Cree Health Board, and a medical specialist with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, she combines clinical work, research, teaching and public health practice across the province.