Caribou: the Innus of Pessamit want to send a formal notice to Quebec

In particular, the Conseil des Innus de Pessamit is asking the government to immediately register the Pipmuakan protected area project in the register of protected areas of Quebec. This is an issue that the community has been pushing for several years.

Representatives of the Innu nation are gathered around a table, in front of a stuffed caribou.

Chief Bryan Mark (seated, in black) spoke at this special hearing to call for the creation of a protected area to protect Atik, the woodland caribou.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Lacroix

With all due respect to the members of the Commission, the time is no longer for discussions but for action. There is a real urgency to act for the protection of Nitassinan and Minashkuau-atiku, a sacred animal for the Innu people. This is about our identity, our culture, our territory, and our rights. We demand respect and will act accordinglysays the chef of Pessamit, Jean-Marie Vollant.

A video and a petition are also circulating asking for the creation of a protected area on the Pipmuakan, part of the Innu ancestral territory located northwest of the community.

After seven stops in different towns in the province, this is the first time that the Woodland Caribou Commission has visited an Aboriginal community. Last April, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) deplored that the commission did not propose a specific consultation for the First Nations, which led to the consultation in Pessamit.

A stuffed caribou in the foreground, behind a conference room where Innu are talking.

A special hearing was held in Pessamit to hear the Innu’s point of view on the Independent Commission on Woodland and Mountain Caribou.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Zoé Bellehumeur

Support from the Innu Nation

Several representatives of the Innu nation came for the Commission’s public consultation, including Chiefs Réal McKenzie of Matimekush-Lac John, Jean-Charles Piétacho of Ekuanitshit, Guy Mestenapéo of Pakua Shipu and Réal Tettaut of Nutashkuan.

Chief Bryan Mark also spoke at this special hearing to call for the creation of a protected area to protect Atik, the woodland caribou. He asks that neither of the two proposed strategies be adopted, considering them catastrophic for the survival of the caribou.

The commission studying caribou protection presents two hypothetical scenarios. The first would condemn 3 of the 12 caribou herds in the province, while the second would lead to job losses and benefits for the forestry industry.

The Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-utenam (ITUM) council also reacted to the Independent Commission on Woodland and Mountain Caribou’s visit to Pessamit, denouncing the lack of credibility of the mandate and the lack of legitimacy of the commissioners.

ITUM would like to point out that he will not participate in the commission and that he is devoting his efforts to working on the development of a Minashkuau-Atiku protected area, which means woodland caribou, the band council said in a press release.

These steps are supported by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL). In a press release, chef Ghislain Picard recalls that First Nations know their territories better than anyone […]. It is time for the province of Quebec to realize this and take it into account.

Native elders in traditional dress seated at a conference table.

Elders from the community of Pessamit came to participate in the commission’s public consultation.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Lacroix

End of public hearings

Without commenting further, the commissioners maintain that they heard two very opposing speeches during their visit to the North Shore. They hint that their recommendations are beginning to take shape.

Tuesday evening, nearly 200 people came to the Hôtel Le Manoir in Baie-Comeau for the commission’s last public hearing. Among them, dozens of forestry workers were present to try to save their jobs.

The Commission’s report is expected this summer, but it will be the Quebec government that will decide what strategy is adopted for the management of caribou populations and their habitat.

With the collaboration of Camille Lacroix and Zoe Bellehumeur

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