Declining caribou herds in Labrador and Quebec focus for aboriginal groups
Hard to tell another aboriginal group 'you must not hunt,' says co-chair of upcoming meeting
Aboriginal groups are meeting in northern Quebec this week to discuss the shrinking caribou herds.
The Ungava Peninsula Aboriginal Round Table (UPCART) brings together groups from Labrador and Quebec to discuss the state of caribou populations.
One of the major topics of discussion will be the latest census of the George River caribou that shows the herd now has fewer than 9,000 animals, and there are warnings the herd could be wiped out within five years.
We must rally together and ensure that we are protecting the herd for future generations. - Adamie Delisle-Alaku
"We're very surprised and still shocked at the major decline," said Adamie Delisle-Alaku, Vice-President, Renewable Resources, Makivik Corporation, which represents hunters in northern Quebec, and Co-Chair of the UPCART.
"We had thought there was a bit more stability in the numbers and the latest survey is quite alarming."
There are some big differences on how aboriginal groups think the herd has been managed.
Inuit in Northern Labrador have endorsed the hunting ban invoked by the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
Innu leaders in Labrador insist the herd can still sustain a small hunt and hunters have continued their hunt, something the minister of environment and conservation says has contributed to the herds decline.
Protecting a food source
Caribou have been a significant part of the diet and culture for aboriginal groups.
"Subsistence harvesting is just one part of the factor of the equation. You need to look at it as a whole, not just focus on one part of it," said Delisle-Alaku. "Climate change is a big factor."
UPCART has been involved in the science done by the Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador governments on the herd. A representative of the group has gone with scientists in a helicopter as they count animals.
However, it's a challenge for all the groups to come to agreement on what should happen.
"It's never an easy undertaking. We are seven nations, seven different distinct nations. We have one mission. Our objective is to ensure that we have proper sound management of caribou so that we can have food security for future generations," said Delisle-Alaku.
While many of the groups agree with the hunting ban, Delisle-Alaku says they don't want to impose that view on groups like the Innu who don't agree.
"It is a very difficult thing to say to another aboriginal group 'you must not hunt,'" he said. "All this being said, we must rally together and ensure that we are protecting the herd for future generations."