It has now been more than two months since the federal holder of Environment and Climate Change sent a letter to the Legault government to inform it of its intention to intervene to protect the woodland and mountain caribou herds on Quebec soil.
In the absence of significant gestures or an agreement with Quebec on the protection of species at risk, the latest version of which expired on March 31, Ottawa is still preparing a decree on the critical habitat of the emblematic deer.
The mechanism, provided for in the Species at Risk Act in Canada, would allow the federal government to take control of some 32,000 square kilometers of territory and the activities that take place there for a period of up to 5 years.
If he hoped to find an agreement through dialogue a few weeks ago, Steven Guilbeault today admits the lack of progress at the table.
The officials and I are very disappointedhe said this week in an interview with Radio-Canada.
Sonia LeBel does not change anything
Despite the involvement of the Minister responsible for Canadian Relations, Sonia LeBel, the last meeting between the representatives of the two levels of government, on June 8, did not yield the desired results, and no new date was set for further negotiations.
What we understand is what the Quebec government’s strategy is to gain time to try to find a solution after the election, if there will be a solution. But the caribou does not votelaunched Minister Guilbeault, accusing the provincial party of not having demonstrated goodwill in recent months.
He had given until April 20 to the province to provide certain information, which has not yet been done to the convenience of the federal government.
” We expect basic things. We asked that Quebec provide us with comments and relevant information on caribou protection. You don’t send someone to the moon. However, to date, we still have no response from the Government of Quebec on this. »
In the office of Minister LeBel, we claim to have presented a plan of caribou protection measures for 2022-2023, two weeks ago, but we refuse to reveal its content in the public square.
The ball is in the federal courtreplied the press secretary of the minister.
Steven Guilbeault is not of the same opinion.
They have not presented a protection plan that goes beyond what Quebec already offers, he explained. And it is precisely because Quebec
don’t do enough that it is today obliged to intervene, he recalled.
We can change color and present it in a different way, but if, fundamentally, we do not change the nature and the scope of the protection of caribou habitat, which is the starting point for an agreement, this is not serious.
The Minister feels all the more disappointed that he is struggling to understand
stubbornness of Quebec in the file. After announcing its colors months in advance of a risk of intervention, Quebec, he believes,
According to him, there is nevertheless a consensus on the measures to be taken to help the caribou herds.
First Nations, unions, experts and environmental groups all say more needs to be done, he insisted. Reducing logging and preserving large patches of mature forests are high on the list.
” I find it hard to understand the Quebec government’s stubbornness in refusing to listen to science on this issue. »
In Quebec City, we want to let the independent caribou commission do its job and present its recommendations. The development of the new Caribou Habitat Protection Strategy is not expected before 2023.
Earlier this spring, Premier François Legault insisted that the management of woodland caribou was under provincial jurisdiction and did not intend to give in to pressure from Ottawa.
Steven Guilbeault therefore stays the course and must present a decree somewhere by the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall.
A letter was also to be sent to Sonia LeBel this week to remind her of this intention.
What we are telling the Government of Quebec is that we are going ahead as planned. […] There is nothing in the conversations that leads us to modify this strategy.
Ottawa is still unable, however, to say when a possible regulation would come into effect. The regulatory text should first be approved by the Council of Ministers. This will be the first time a critical habitat order would be used when the Species at Risk Act was introduced in Canada in 2002.
Not without the Natives
The federal government is also working in parallel to find other means of protecting woodland caribou herds. According to a source familiar with the matter in Ottawa, an agreement with Quebec is now in the works
medium or long term.
In the shorter term, Ottawa is turning to Indigenous nations
to move the conversation forward. Meetings have already taken place with several communities in order to establish an agreement on caribou protection, even without Quebec.
In this regard, Minister Steven Guilbeault sees it as a non-negotiable condition.
We have made the participation of Aboriginal people in a new agreement between Quebec and the federal government a condition, which the Quebec government has refused to datehe commented.
It is out of the question that there is an agreement and that the aboriginal peoples are not at the table.
If necessary, added the Minister, there will be
two separate agreements. Either way, he promises,
the federal government will have an agreement with the Aboriginal peoples of Quebec.
In the past year, communities have notably threatened to sue the provincial government and even the federal government if they do not apply their laws to protect the species. The Huron-Wendat Nation also denounced the lack of cooperation of the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (New window) regarding Charlevoix caribou.
There could be only 5,252 woodland and mountain caribou left in Quebec, distributed among a dozen herds. Previous estimates from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks reported a total population of between 6,500 and 8,000 individuals.
On the verge of extinction, two Quebec herds are currently living in captivity, namely Charlevoix and Val-d’Or. The Gaspésie mountain caribou herd is also in great difficulty, with around 30 animals. Other woodland caribou populations are declining in Quebec, including that of the Pipmuacan.