Labrador hunters, airline charged in illegal caribou hunt

TEN people and an airline have been charged with illegally hunting caribou in Labrador last March.

Innu admitted taking animals, say they'll do it again this year despite ban

A plane, allegedly involved in illegal caribou hunting, is shown on the beach near Sheshatshiu last March. (CBC)

Nine people have been charged with illegally hunting caribou in Labrador last March, while an aviation company has been charged with possession.

Three people were charged with possession of a caribou.  

The charges were laid this week by officers with the province's fish and wildlife enforcement division of the Department of Justice. The charges include hunting and possessing big game as well as obstructing a wildlife officer.

The hunting is alleged to have taken place in early March of last year, about a month after the province slapped a ban on hunting any caribou in Labrador for five years. That decision was made based on studies that showed the number of caribou in the Big Land, particularly in the George River herd, was dangerously low.

In response, the Innu Nation told CBC that hunters would still take 150 male caribou for each community.

Grand Chief Prote Poker said nine animals brought to Sheshatshiu were among 30 caribou that were killed around that time. He also confirmed they were from the George River herd.

At the time, Poker said the Innu would not comply with the ban, adding: "We've been very cautious about the way we hunt caribou. We've been very conservative on how many caribou we kill."

Shortly thereafter, on March 1, the government announced it had grounded a small plane in Labrador that may have been involved in illegal caribou hunting. It said the plane had been "temporarily seized" as part of the investigation.

Court documents obtained by CBC name Wilderness North Air, of Thunder Bay, Ont., as the company that was charged.

The investigation centred around animals allegedly taken in several areas around Sheshatshiu, including Shipiskan Lake and Pocket Knife Lake.

It's not clear when those accused of hunting, as well as the company involved, will be in court to answer to the charges.

Poker, meanwhile, said in December that Innu from Sheshatshiu and Natuashish would hunt caribou again this winter, despite the five-year ban.