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I was looking at Canadian election maps, and noticed the Manicouagan riding had weird exclaves formed between the 55th parallel and the Quebec-Labrador provincial border. When extended to Hudson Bay, this line also serves as the southern boundary to Quebec's predominantly Inuit-inhabited Nunavik region (images below for reference).

The fact they are exclaves turned out to be fairly uninteresting – only the westernmost one appears inhabited and there's a rail connection to the south via Labrador.

However, while the interior is uninhabited, both ends of the parallel have points of interest related to various indigenous groups. On the eastern side, the exclave is inhabited in part by the Naskapi at Kawawachikamach. However, they have some reserved land north of the 55th and this may have contributed to them having a seat at the otherwise Inuit Kativik Regional Government (KRG) in Nunavik. On the western side, this appears to be a historical point of contact between the Cree and Inuit. In the modern day they now have settlements on either side of Great Whale River just north of the 55th at Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik respectively.

As a result, I've been trying to trace the history of the 55th parallel and whether alternate boundaries were ever considered. Of interest is that the Manicouagan riding was created in 1966, so at least the eastern portion of the boundary seems to have existed in some form before negotiations between the governments of Quebec & Canada and the aforementioned groups in the late 1970s established the KRG. These agreements are now constitutionally guaranteed by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

I hope I've given enough context for my interest, as my linked questions are:

  • When was the 55th first established as an administrative boundary? It's possibly different times for the eastern and western portions.
  • Why the 55th specifically? Note that given the time period, I'm aware the answer may be "arbitrary line chosen without consulting the indigenous," but if the eastern portion of the line was established after settlement in the exclave mining town of Schefferville beginning around 1953, a line not further south than this makes some sense (the Naskapi then resettled to the area, unclear if by choice or not).
  • Was there any consideration to re-drawing the line during the late 70s negotiations, especially with regards to the Naskapi? I'm slightly less interested in the Cree side, because while a boundary along Great Whale River initially seems more sensible, it probably has no practical ongoing effect to the Cree as they are not part of the KRG and have their own separate governance structure.

Image of Nunavik region and Manicouagan riding

(image sources: 1, 2)

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  • From my experience reading How the States Got Their Shapes, my SWAG at this would be that the boundaries may have been encoded in law prior to anyone actually going out there and verifying exactly where those lines ran. Its also possible that the shoreline didn't used to be exactly there, and likely only mattered a few months of the year (due to how far north it is).
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 22 at 18:37
  • @T.E.D. My initial thoughts too. The eastern side in particular may have initially been entirely accidental, seems no one really lived there until 1953 & the provincial border was historically disputed and hard to survey (it's defined by the Laurentian Divide, aka drainage basins). But, being an internal provincial administrative boundary, it seems like this could have easily been changed while the parties were negotiating (based on the agreement texts, the geography seems well known at this point, and it superficially seems like it would have benefited all parties, or at least not harm)
    – DPenner1
    Sep 22 at 18:50
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It was established in 1975 by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and reaffirmed in 1978 by the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.

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    I've highlighted in my question that the Eastern portion probably existed in 1966. Additionally it seems highly likely a pre-existing line was used in those agreements, because why create a new one that seems to have all the administrative quirks pointed out, with a seemingly strange grouping of one Cree village and the Neskapi with the Inuit (though the Cree territory was carved out of the KRG, this seems to be the only difference between the regions named Nunavik & Kativik).
    – DPenner1
    Sep 22 at 20:59

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