Nfld. & Labrador

Nunatsiavut minister says Labrador Inuit need alternative caribou source

Greg Flowers hopes the provincial government will help provide caribou meat from somewhere outside the area of a hunting ban. 

Caribou meat a staple for Labrador, says Greg Flowers, but George River herd protected by hunting ban

The George River caribou herd, seen here outside Nain, is dwindling. (Submitted by Brandon Pardy)

The Nunatsiavut minister of lands and natural resources says he plans to ask the provincial government for help in getting caribou meat for Labrador Inuit, who are prohibited from hunting the George River caribou herd.

Greg Flowers said caribou is a cultural necessity for Labradorians, and an alternative source should be found to discourage illegal hunts.

"It's hard for people not to hunt because it's right there and caribou has been a staple of the people for generations," Greg Flowers told CBC News.

For seven years, a provincial hunting ban has been in effect on the George River caribou herd, 99 per cent of which has vanished since 2001, according to biologists. As a member of the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Aboriginal Round Table — a coalition of Indigenous groups in Labrador and Quebec — the Nunatsiavut government has agreed to discourage hunting while the ban is in place.

Flowers suggested the province could help find caribou meat from other healthy herds. 

"If we can get caribou from the Leaf River Herd or somewhere else — even if we get it for ceremonial purposes or feasts in the communities — I think maybe we have to go down that road," he said. 

"If we want to have a legal hunt in five years, 10 years, we have to restrain and we have to find alternatives."

Alternative wild meat not the same: Flowers

Flowers said most beneficiaries of Nunatsiavut respect the ban. And while the provincial government supplies alternative wild meat, that just doesn't cut it, he says.

"I know we get moose from Gros Morne to try and help with this," he said, "but moose is not the same as caribou." 

Flowers said hopes to meet with the provincial government some time this month.

CBC has asked for comment from the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, but has yet to receive a response.

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