While Ottawa criticizes him for not doing enough to protect woodland caribou, the minister forests et de la Faune Pierre Dufour instead pointed the finger at the Aboriginal hunting expeditions carried out on the North Shore this winter.
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“We have people who are working to improve conservation and, on the other hand, I had an Aboriginal community, in the east of the province, which went to destroy close to 10% of a herd where it there were approximately 500 woodland caribou,” said Minister Dufour on Wednesday.
He was referring to an article from Log published last week in which one could read that 50 woodland caribou had been killed since the beginning of the year, during expeditions in which members of the Innu community of Nutashkuan (Natashquan), north of the Central of the Romaine-4.
“Quite hypocritical to see the CAQ pointing the finger, instead of taking its responsibilities”, immediately reacted on Twitter Kate Legault-Meek, the director of parliamentary affairs for the Minister of the Environment of Canada, Steven Guilbeault.
Quebec prohibits hunting woodland caribou, a species that is threatened. There are only about 5,250 left in the province. However, indigenous communities are claiming their rights to ancestral traditions.
“If we have a community that goes away, under the pretext of its charity, to kill caribou in a threatened and vulnerable herd, I think that they too are not helping the situation,” added Mr. Dufour.
However, indigenous communities are very involved in saving the species. For example, the Conseil des Innus de Pessamit, nearly 60 km from Baie-Comeau, has notably suspended woodland caribou hunting since 2008, in order to protect this sacred species.
“In my opinion, it is unfortunate to try to confront a case of Aboriginal hunting, justified or not, and the situation of the woodland caribou,” reacted André Côté, director of the Territory and resources sector of the Innu Council. of Pessamit. “The main causes of the decline of woodland and mountain caribou are well known and documented.”
Indeed, it has been established that the species has been mostly decimated by logging.
“Across Canada and Quebec, cuts [forestières] are linked to the decline of the caribou,” observes Steeve Côté, biologist at Laval University and founder of the Caribou Ungava program. However, he specifies that there is no cutting in the sector where the expeditions took place, north of Romaine-4.
The Innu Council of Pessamit has also invited Minister Pierre Dufour on numerous occasions to come and discuss the importance of the link between caribou and Innu culture. The Council also wishes to inform him of proposals to protect the species while limiting the impacts on the forest industry. Mr. Dufour never responded to the invitations.
According to Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, Quebec does not cooperate and does not get involved enough in caribou conservation. The minister therefore issued an ultimatum last week: Quebec has until April 20 to provide any information demonstrating its actions and its good will, failing which the federal government will impose a protection decree that will allow it to control the management of activities on the territory inhabited by caribou.
For his part, Minister Dufour defends himself from not acting and underlines the construction of enclosures intended to protect small isolated herds, “to give ourselves time to see what actions we are going to take”.
Quebec has also set up the Independent Commission on Woodland Caribou, whose consultations have just begun. No caribou expert sits there, a major problem according to biologist Steeve Côté.
“The Assembly of First Nations (AFNQL) regrets that the mandate of the Commission is to assess the economic impacts of caribou protection measures on forest management, rather than taking into account the consequences of logging on the caribou and First Nations rights,” the AFNQL said in a press release two days ago.
Prime Minister François Legault reiterated this week that he wanted a “balance” between saving the species and protecting jobs.
Innu First Nations communities of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh also consider the Commission “useless” and accuse Quebec of trying to buy time. These communities even filed a motion against Quebec, in the Superior Court, to denounce the lack of consultation of the First Nations in the protection of the caribou.
– With the collaboration of Geneviève Lajoie
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