Sask. government a no show at Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou board meeting

Members of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board say they are puzzled and frustrated with the lack of participation from Saskatchewan, after the province's representatives were a no-show at a recent meeting.

Province's funding commitment to board 'in process,' says Sask. environment ministry

The Qamanirjuaq caribou herd, pictured here, and the Beverly herd winter mainly in southeastern N.W.T. and northeastern Saskatchewan. (Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board)

Members of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) say they are puzzled and frustrated with the lack of participation from Saskatchewan, after the province's representatives were a no-show at a recent meeting.

"When both herds look like they've declined, it couldn't have come at a worse time," said Ross Thompson, the board's executive director.

The BQCMB held a biannual meeting earlier this month in Winnipeg to discuss key objectives surrounding the conservation of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds. The herds' migration area spans parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The board was established to make recommendations to the provincial and territorial governments to ensure the effective conservation and management of the two herds. The board has been around since 1982 and is now in its fourth mandated 10-year agreement.

None of Saskatchewan's board members or alternates attended the Nov. 14-16 meetings. 

Nunavut and N.W.T. contributing extra funding

"The board has attempted to accommodate the two jurisdictions that are having trouble with budgets," said Ross Thompson, the board's executive director.

"If you look at the way the board has structured its meetings, we have had a predominant centring out of Saskatchewan and Manitoba."

At the meeting, Manitoba pledged to work toward reinstating full funding for board operations.

Thompson said other jurisdictions such as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, have not only contributed extra funding to the board, but also have ensured their members are consistently in attendance at the meetings.

He added that the travel cost for the board's Nunavut delegation is around $30,000 to go to Manitoba or Saskatchewan but that doesn't stop them from attending.

According to Thompson, each jurisdiction is needed to provide operational support as well as make sure its members are able to attend and participate in their strategies.

Thirteen members make up the board and a minimum of eight are required to constitute quorum. Due to Saskatchewan's lack of attendance at the meeting earlier this month, Thompson said they needed to form a subcommittee in order to approve budget and educational programs.

Although they found a way to get around the lack of participation, he said it wasn't the most effective way of doing board business.

"There's nothing that can replace faces and names sitting around the table with us," said Thompson.  

Sask.'s share of board funding 'in process'

Although Saskatchewan's delegates weren't present at the November meeting, the provincial government says it wants to be an active participant in the BQCMB.

"We prioritize attending them based on what budgets are available," said Brant Kirychuk, executive director of the Fish, Wildlife and Lands branch of Saskatchewan's Ministry of Environment.

Kirychuk said Saskatchewan makes an effort to attend a minimum of one BQCMB meeting per year. According to Kirychuk, the province is trying to arrange alternatives to meeting in person such as teleconference or video conferencing.

In terms of the province's funding commitment to the board, Thompson said Saskatchewan has been invoiced but its contribution has not yet been received.

When asked about Saskatchewan's financial contribution for this fiscal year, Kirychuk said, "It's in process."

About the Author

Brad Bellegarde

Reporter for CBC Indigenous based in Saskatchewan

Born and raised in Treaty 4 Territory, he holds an Indian Communication Arts Certificate from the First Nations University of Canada and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Regina. Follow him on Twitter @BBellegardeCBC