National Pollutant Release Inventory Indigenous Series: First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
A number of businesses, institutions and other facilities across Canada must report their air, water and land pollutants annually to the Government of Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). The information collected is public and helps Canadians learn about pollution in their surroundings. It is also used to set environmental priorities and monitor environmental performance.
The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) Indigenous Series highlights environmental challenges faced by Inuit and First Nations communities in Québec that are located in close proximity to facilities that report to the NPRI. The purpose of this series is to initiate discussions amongst affected groups, researchers and policy-makers about the sources and impacts of pollution in Indigenous communities across Canada. Differences in the content of each overview within the series reflect the knowledge, concerns and priorities identified by the regional organizations on behalf of the 57 communities they serve.
The NPRI Indigenous Series intends to serve as an informational overview, within the scope of the NPRI and the substances it tracks. It is not an exhaustive inventory of all that is occurring on Indigenous territories, nor all the pollutants that are released in and around communities. Instead, it is a starting point for future analyses, engagement and improvements. Links to external sources are used in the document solely to provide information that is relevant to the identified pollutants and concerns, but not covered by the NPRI.
NPRI Indigenous Community Series: First Nations of Québec and Labrador
Developed with input from the First Nations of Québec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute, this specific overview examines facilities located near First Nations communities in Québec and Labrador, and the pollutants they report to the NPRI. It also examines substances and sectors of interest to First Nations communities, as well as the actions taken by facilities to mitigate environmental impacts.
The NPRI and small or remote communities
Exposure to pollution varies across demographic and socioeconomic groups, as well as across geographic regions (for example, urban versus rural). While small and remote communities across Canada are located away from industrial centres, pollution is transported through water, air and soil, and can negatively effect water and air quality in distant locations.
NPRI data alone is not enough to assess the risks and impacts of pollution on human health and the environment. Each substance has distinct physical and chemical properties, and varies in toxicity. As a result, environmental and health impacts will vary between substances and environments. To assess risk, other factors that must be considered include:
- inherent toxicity
- physical and chemical properties (such as persistence and bioaccumulation)
- medium (air, land or water) to which the substance is released
- transport and transformation (movement, breakdown) pathways
- amount, timing, nature and level of exposure
- cumulative impacts of multiple substances and factors (such as socioeconomic factors and previous releases)
To pursue advanced analyses in this area, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) data on environmental indicators can be linked to NPRI data.
First Nations of Québec and Labrador
Canada is home to more than 630 First Nations communities, representing more than 50 Nations and 50 languages. According to the 2016 Census, more than 1.67 million people across Canada (4.9% of the population) identify as an Aboriginal person.
In Québec, 41 First Nations communities representing ten Nations make up about one percent of the province’s population. First Nations communities in Québec belong to two distinct linguistic and cultural families: Algonquian and Iroquoian. These communities are located across the southern half of the province and as far north as the 55th parallel. The Mohawk Community of Akwesasne, located in southern Québec, has the highest number of total residents.
Facilities near Mushuau Innu First Nation and Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, the two First Nations communities in Labrador, have also been included in this overview.
Community coordinates were retrieved from Open Government.
Location of First Nations communities in Quebec and Labrador
Facilities in the region
This overview will focus on facilities located within 100 kilometers of a First Nations community in Québec or Labrador. Conversely, for the purpose of this series, facilities in Nunavik (above the 55th parallel) were omitted from this overview. You can view releases from these facilities in the Nunavik story map. Facilities near Cree communities in Québec are included in both the First Nations and Cree story maps.
In 2018, 590 facilities in Québec (within 100 kilometers of a First Nations community) reported to the NPRI from 17 different sectors. Reporting to the NPRI depends on several criteria, including the size of the facility and the activities carried out.
The majority of facilities in Québec reported to the “other manufacturing” sector (154 facilities), followed by the chemicals sector (69 facilities). Facilities reporting in the “other manufacturing” sector include food manufacturers, textile finishers, metal product manufacturers, and other miscellaneous manufacturers.
In Labrador, only one facility reported from within 100 kilometers of a First Nations community in 2018.
Although not all are included in this overview, there are a large number of electricity facilities in remote and northern communities because those communities are not connected to power grids. Thus, they rely on diesel-fired generators for electricity. These generators have larger environmental footprints than other electricity facilities and may negatively impact air quality and human health.
Location of NPRI facilities reporting near First Nations communities in 2018
Substances in the region
By quantity, the majority of releases to air, water and land for all substances in 2018 were reported by the aluminum sector (265,822 tonnes) followed by the mining and quarrying sector (25,540 tonnes). Overall, the substances released in the highest quantities were carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which accounted for over 85% of all releases by the select facilities in the region in 2018. Disposals and transfers were reported largely by the mining and quarrying sector (48,466 tonnes).
In 2018, select aluminium facilities in Québec and Labrador released carbon monoxide (228,265 tonnes) in the highest quantity, followed by sulphur dioxide (32,680 tonnes). Annually, the aluminium sector releases one third of Canada’s industrial emissions of carbon monoxide as a result of a chemical reaction during the smelting process.
The substance released in the highest quantity from select facilities in the mining and quarrying sector was carbon monoxide (10,079 tonnes), followed by particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) (14,798 tonnes collectively). These substances are known as Criteria Air Contaminants (CACs), and they can cause or contribute to air issues such as smog and acid rain. Releases of PM from road dust are included in the quantities reported by the mines to reflect the scope of communities’ exposure to sources of PM.
The map shows the total releases of the four substances (mentioned above), and which substance is released in the highest quantity at the facility (“predominate category”).
Substances will have varying effects on the environment depending on whether they are released to air, water or land, and how they move through the environment once released. The Guide on using and interpreting NPRI data includes helpful tips.
Substances released in the highest quantities in 2018
In 2018, 50 facilities in the mining and quarrying sector in Québec and Labrador reported to the NPRI. Of those facilities, 34 were within 100 kilometers of a First Nation community. The majority of releases were reported by iron ore mines (81% of the sector’s releases to air, water and land).
Pollutants are released directly to air from various mining and quarrying activities, including:
- metal ore mining and processing
- waste rock piles, materials handling and open pits, which can be sources of wind-blown releases
- operation and maintenance of vehicles and on-site power generation facilities
Releases by mining and quarrying facilities in 2018
Mining disposals and transfers
Mining and quarrying facilities in Québec and Labrador also reported substances sent for disposal, transfer and treatment. From these categories, the majority of substances were reported as on-site disposals to tailings and wasterock management areas.
By substance, in 2018, disposals of manganese (Mn) were reported in the highest quantity (17,444 tonnes), followed by disposals of arsenic (As) (13,263 tonnes).
Tailings are generally disposed of on-site in areas confined by engineered structures, such as dams or berms, or by using the natural features of the mine site such as valleys, hillsides or depressions. Federal, provincial and territorial governments all share environmental protection responsibilities related to tailings management.
Many of the substances reported to the NPRI that are contained in tailings and waste rock occur naturally, typically at low concentrations in rock or bitumen deposits. However, the overall quantities can be high due to the very large volume of material extracted or processed during mining operations, as well as differences in geology.
Disposals by mining and quarrying facilities in 2018
Forests are an essential part of First Nations’ cultural heritage. For thousands of years, communities used sustainable practices to ensure that future generations would benefit from the same resources and opportunities as their ancestors. A key part of this approach is balancing environmental, social, and economic needs.
The NPRI tracks substances released by three different sectors within the forest industry:
- the pulp and paper sector: facilities that manufacture pulp, paper or paperboard
- the wood products sector: facilities that manufacture products from wood, such as sawmills
- the logging subsector: facilities that are primarily engaged in cutting timber, producing primary wood, or transporting timber
The pulp and paper sector accounted for the majority of the releases to air, water and land from the forest industry in 2018. The substances reported in the largest quantities include carbon monoxide (CO) (11,037 tonnes), nitrogen oxides (NOx) (4,007 tonnes), and volatile organic compounds (VOC) (3,015 tonnes).
The wood products sector reported 99% of its releases to air in 2018. The remaining 1% is predominately off-site disposals. The substances reported as releases to air in the largest quantities include carbon monoxide (3,043 tonnes), particulate matter (PM) (1,643 tonnes) and volatile organic compounds (1,615 tonnes).
The Government of Canada established Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act in 1971. The regulations govern the discharge of harmful substances into waters frequented by fish, and have improved the quality of effluent released directly into the environment. The pulp and paper effluent quality indicator provides more information.
Indigenous peoples and forestry in Canada (PDF) provides additional information on this topic.
Releases by pulp and paper and wood products facilities in 2018
First Nations communities in Québec are involved in the Government of Canada’s Northern Contaminants Program (NCP). The NCP was established in 1991 to engage northerners and scientists in researching and monitoring contaminants in the Canadian Arctic that are increasingly found in the food chain. This research can be used to assess human and ecosystem health, and to create policies that eliminate or reduce contaminants. The NCP funds various collaborative projects each year that prioritize:
- human health
- environmental monitoring and research
- community-based monitoring and research
- communications, capacity and outreach
- program coordination and Indigenous partnerships
Pollution in your community
NPRI data can be used by communities across Canada, including those in northern and remote regions, to:
- identify sources of releases to air, land and water
- monitor changes in when and where substances are released over time
- engage in discussions regarding the potential health and environmental impacts of pollution using data and scientific information published by the NPRI and the Government of Canada
Learn more about pollution prevention and how individuals and facilities can help protect the environment. Other NPRI maps and datasets provide additional analysis. More information on NPRI sectors and the substances they release is available on our website.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: