Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest, Canada
The Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest in Quebec, Canada, was created out of an eagerness to cooperate toward the diversification of the region's forest based economy. Its two main objectives are to increase the opportunities of community residents to earn sustainable livelihoods and to help communities develop sustainable and integrated management of forest resources.
As a non-profit community development agency, the Model Forest recently conducted a feasibility study on the implementation of a Centre of Excellence in Nordic Fur with the aim to re-establish a competitive fur market. The fur industry is closely linked to the history of Quebec and the region where, for centuries, it was one of the main industries for Aboriginal and non aboriginal communities. Building on Quebec’s reputation for exceptional quality fur, Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest believes it can revive this traditional industry.
The Centre of Excellence is currently building up an integrated industrial cluster which will handle fur processing and commercialization. All of the fur will be developed under the highest ethical standards across the entire supply chain, from trappers to consumers. Partnerships with Aboriginal communities and trappers’ associations will help ensure the sustainable and equitable supply of this resource, while providing access to the distinctive furs in the region. The quality and variety of wild fur in Quebec is a major asset in an industry globally dominated by more than 80% in farmed mink.
Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest, situated in the heart of the great Canadian boreal forest in Eastern Canada, is home to many species with attractive fur (marten, mink, otter, lynx, red fox, beaver) and international and domestic demand is rising despite the slowdown in the global economy. Consumers are also better informed about the superiority of natural fur, a renewable, biodegradable and eco-friendly material, versus synthetic fur which is a petroleum based product. The local industrial cluster also has a partnership with seal hunters from Îles -de-la-Madeleine in Québec, and is talking with seal hunters and processors in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to process their fur.
In addition, the Model Forest is working with its partners, local organizations and local businesses to set up a research and development component to modernize the fur dressing and processing techniques. It is also developing a tailored training program that will bring the latest technologies to fur processing and also incorporate and revive traditional Aboriginal processing techniques. In fact, Serge Harvey, General Manager Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest, explains that currently “an initial group of 10 students are being trained in fur processing techniques, and the local community college will soon be launching a special program for larger groups. We expect to create around 150 jobs in the next few years.” Furthermore, he adds:
“The project team plans to develop two different products lines: one based on the most advanced methods of fur dressing and transformation, and another one on traditional ancestral Aboriginal practices, while giving young designers of both cultures many opportunities to make their mark in the development of these new niche products.”
The establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Nordic Fur by Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest can have a significant effect on the region’s economy, especially to the Indigenous and rural communities where the fur industry has been an integral part of the region’s history and culture, and one of the driving economic engines of its people for centuries until its decline in the ‘80s.