The Legault government is changing course and will only announce a “draft” caribou recovery strategy, around mid-June, denounce the Innus of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh, who in turn harshly criticize the Quebec plan.
What there is to know
Quebec will submit a “draft” caribou recovery strategy around mid-June, rather than a final strategy applicable immediately.
An environmental organization is calling for the intervention of the Prime Minister to avoid cuts in sensitive sectors between now and the tabling of the final strategy.
The Innu communities of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh qualify the Quebec plan as a caribou “extinction strategy”.
The two Aboriginal communities say they learned with astonishment, when the draft government strategy was presented to them, that Quebec is immediately giving up on tabling a final strategy, applicable immediately.
“In addition to not being developed in consultation with indigenous peoples, the strategy will be limited to being still only a draft”, which will be the subject of consultations and may be modified before eventually being translated into concrete measures, they lament.
The Legault government had nevertheless committed “to publishing its final strategy on woodland and mountain caribou [d’ici] the end of June 2023,” he wrote in a joint statement with the federal government, published on August 22, 2022.
“Ideally, the final strategy should have been tabled in June, but to do so without properly consulting the stakeholders, I think it’s a worst-case scenario,” says biologist Alain Branchaud, director general of the Quebec section of the Society for Nature and Parks (SNAP Quebec).
However, there is a great risk that this delay will allow logging to continue in sectors sensitive to caribou, he acknowledges.
“This is where Prime Minister François Legault must stand up and call the public service to order, [qui] resists working with the government,” he says, referring to the obstruction of some deputy ministers of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
If these people do not want to follow the government’s intention, there may be a lot of cleaning to be done.
Alain Branchaud, General Manager of SNAP Quebec
The office of the Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, Benoit Charette, did not respond to questions from The Press about this change of direction.
The office of the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, meanwhile indicated that he was waiting to see the Quebec plan before commenting on it.
“We will see in time the next steps and actions necessary to ensure the protection and survival of the emblematic caribou in Quebec,” said its press officer, Kaitlin Power.
The communities of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh are also firing red balls at the measures contained in the draft strategy presented to them and deplore the fact that none of their proposals are included in it, as the community of Passed.
“It’s an extinction strategy that is being prepared for the woodland caribou,” asserts Michael Ross, director of development and territory for the Conseil des Innus d’Essipit, on the North Shore.
“For the current government, the issue is not caribou protection, [c’est] economy,” adds Gilbert Dominique, Chief of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation (meaning “the Innu of Lac Saint-Jean” in the Innu language), established mainly in Mashteuiatsh, in Lac-Saint-Jean.
Essipit had proposed a protected area project of 800 km2 which would have been connected to another existing protected area, so as to reach the minimum threshold of 1000 km2 of area under protection recommended by the Quebec Woodland Caribou Recovery Team in its guidelines for caribou habitat management.
“We also proposed restoration measures, because the habitat is already very degraded by the forestry industry on our Nitassinan,” adds Mr. Ross, stressing that these ideas are drawn from scientific studies.
Mashteuiatsh, for its part, intended to “propose areas of interesting importance to give the caribou a chance to survive,” says Chief Gilbert Dominique.
Failure to consult
The Legault government has failed in its obligation to adequately consult the First Nations by not taking their issues into account in its caribou strategy, accuse the two Innu communities, who have already filed a lawsuit against Quebec for this reason, they recall. .
“We will consider our other options,” says Mr. Dominique, who says however that he is “not yet” at the stage of blocking roads or logging sites to be heard.
Essipit and Mashteuiatsh are also counting on the federal government to carry out its threat to impose by decree caribou protection measures in Quebec in the event that the Quebec strategy proves unsatisfactory in its eyes.
This is perhaps what Quebec is looking for, postulates Michael Ross, who has the impression that the Legault government is trying to “put the odious [d’éventuelles mesures de protection] either on the federal government, or on the First Nations, or on someone else to say: “Ah! it’s not our fault what’s happening, we tried to come up with something”.
- Area of Nitassinan (ancestral territory) of the First Nation of Essipit
Source: Essipit Innu Council
- 112,570 km2
- Area of Nitassinan (ancestral territory) of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, of which Mashteuiatsh is a part
Source: Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation