In Nord-du-Québec, the region north of the 55th parallel, anyone 16 or older can register in a special licensing program, which allows them to drive in their communities. Until now, there has been little need for a provincial licence, since roads in this region are not connected to the rest of the province’s roads, explains Audrey Chaput, media relations officer for the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec. But changes to improve training are in the works, the result of more roads being built linking the communities to the main road network. Not to mention issues of safety: the rise in the number of young drivers on the road—up 26.6 per cent since 2004—has coincided with a spike in problems. During the first six months of 2010, the local police in Kuujjuaq, one of the communities in the region, opened 505 files for impaired driving, compared to 263 in 2008.
To address the issue, the Kativik police force, the Kativik school board and the Quebec Ministry of Transportation are creating a certified driving school in Nunavik so drivers can get their provincial licence, the class 5 permit. The Kativik regional government will cover the costs of the course, which will be run by the school board. It will include 24 hours of classroom theory and 15 hours of instruction behind the wheel, says Julie Grenier, a communications officer with the Kativik regional government.
The course will be mandatory, and the goal is to phase out the territorial permits. There is a concerted effort by Nunavik organizations to have a safe road environment, says Debbie Astroff, a public relations officer for the Kativik school board. “That’s why we’re working so closely with the [Transportation Ministry] right now to try and address the problem,” says Grenier, “because we know it is a problem.”