Inuit, Inuu, Cree in Quebec and Labrador join forces to protect Ungava caribou
“A united and powerful voice that will endeavor to preserve caribou”
Faced with nosediving caribou herd populations and tougher government restrictions on caribou hunting, aboriginal organizations and governments in Quebec and Labrador have set up a body called the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Aboriginal Round Table.
The new group wants to become “a united and powerful voice that will endeavour to preserve caribou and the deep relationship that aboriginal people have long held with it,” said an April 24 joint news release from groups including Makivik Corp., the Innu Nation and the Nunatsiavut government.
The round table’s members want the governments of Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, to take “significant and immediate actions” to:
• fully protect the calving grounds from any exploration and development activities;
• give priority for the aboriginal subsistence hunt in accordance with aboriginal rights and existing treaty rights; and,
• create a co-management board that would include meaningful and significant participation form all aboriginal peoples connected to the herds.
Following a meeting in Kuujjuaq this past January, Inuit, Innu and Inuit-Metis living in Labrador and Inuit, Innu, Naskapi and Cree living in Quebec met again in Uashat mak Mani-Utenam last week to set up the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Aboriginal Round Table.
The round table elected two co-chairs, Sarah Leo from the Nunatsiavut government and Adamie Delisle Alaku from Makivik, as well as an executive committee: Réal McKenzie (Innu of the Quebec region), George Guanish (Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach), Todd Russell (NunatuKavut Community Council), Prote Poker (Innu Nation) and Isaac Masty (Grand Council of the Crees of Eeyou Istchee/Cree Regional Authority (GCCEI/CRA) and the two co-chairs.
A technical committee will support the activities of the round table and start the development of a conservation plan for the Ungava caribou herds.
This, the news release said, will also include a process for recommending caribou quotas “while respecting the sovereignty and independence of each member nation.”
“The caribou has brought us together — we are united and committed to preserving caribou and our relationship with it for our present and future generations,” co-chair Leo said.
In a declaration, those at the recent meeting stated “caribou is central to our people. It is an integral part of who we are, our culture, our spiritual and physical well-being.”
And all members agreed they must slow the “critical decline” of the George River caribou herd and the “uncertain future” of the Leaf River and Torngat Caribou Herds.
The George River herd population is currently estimated at about 27,600 animals.
That’s about a third of the roughly 74,000 caribou which were estimated to be in the herd two years ago and much lower than the 385,000 caribou spotted in 2001.
The results of the 2011 population survey of Nunavik’s Leaf River caribou herd established the size of the herd at 430,000 caribou — give or take about 98,000 animals. Adult survival rates and the number of calves produced were low, the survey found.
Members of the round table will meet again in early April to make decisions on actions and measures to protect the George River and Leaf River caribou herds.
“The round table is a true testament of the respect for the individual realities and sovereignty of each participating aboriginal nations,” said co-chair Alaku. “I have great faith in the power of our unity, and that we will achieve our goal of preserving caribou while protecting our cultural well-being” he added.
Newfoundland put a five-year ban on all caribou hunting earlier this year in Labrador, which Inuit say they’re ready to respect for two years, but Innu have contested it.
Meanwhile, a group representing caribou outfitters in Quebec are suing the Quebec government, which placed a moratorium on all hunting of the George Rover herd in addition to limits in the Leaf River.