Caribou Protection |  Innus of pessamite has officially notified Ottawa and Quebec

Caribou Protection | Innus of pessamite has officially notified Ottawa and Quebec

The Innus of Pessamite are urging the federal and Quebec governments to take action to protect forest caribou by early September or else they will go to court.

Posted at 5:00 am


Jean Thomas Leveille

Jean-Thomas Léveillé The press

The north coast-based First Nation sent formal notices to both levels of government through bailiffs this week.

The Pessamite Band Council is increasing pressure on Ottawa, which for many months has been exploring the possibility of intervening by decree to impose measures Quebec is slow to implement.

“Given the urgency of the situation and the inadequacy of the actions taken to date, the Council hereby calls on the Canadian government to take concrete and expeditious action to protect the species and habitat of the caribou,” the call to Ottawa read, of which La press received a copy.

The six-page letter, which was delivered to Federal Minister for Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault earlier this week, is also addressed to Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister for Indigenous Relations Mark Miller.

It gives them 20 working days to act, putting the deadline around September 8, right in the middle of the Quebec election campaign.

A similar letter was also sent to the Legault government, urging it to act as threatened by the Innu Council of Pessamite in May.

Proven strategy

In their letter to Ottawa, the Pessamit Innu are calling for the passage of a decree under the Species at Risk Act, a strategy that has had success in other acts in the past.

Notably, Minister Steven Guilbeault last November passed an emergency decree to protect the choir frog in Longueuil after legal action was taken by two environmental groups to force it to do so.

“Every time someone went to court to seek a restraining order [pour la protection d’espèces en péril]it worked,” a source in the federal government who was not authorized to speak publicly about the files told La Presse.

This is prompting Ottawa to make good on its threats to intervene in the short term, the source explains.

“We will have no choice [sinon] we are being asked to do so by the courts [le faire] “, She says.


The approach of the Innu from Pessamite reflects the desperation of the community seeing the caribou going extinct, Jérôme Bacon Saint-Onge, outgoing vice-president, told La Presse. Elections will be held on August 17th to renew the Association Council.

“We’re finished,” he said. Until recently we asked ourselves: “What does it take to get them to move?” »

Caribou Protection Innus of pessamite has officially notified Ottawa


Jérôme Bacon Saint-Onge, outgoing vice president of Pessamit

He hopes the formal decisions will bear fruit and there will be no need to go to court to ensure the protection of Atiku, “caribou” in the Innu language, which is of great importance in Innu culture.

Legal action is always avoidable.

Jérôme Bacon Saint-Onge, outgoing Vice President of the Innu Council of Pessamit

The formal notice issued by the Innu of Pessamite in Ottawa also broadly underscores governments’ responsibility to respect the ancestral rights of indigenous peoples, including their practices and customs.

“Failing to protect the caribou is portrayed as a breach by governments of their constitutional obligations,” notes Alain Branchaud, director general of the Quebec Society for Nature and Parks (SNAP), who sees it as a “strategic approach.”

SNAP supports the Innu of Pessamit in their conservation project aimed at preventing the disappearance of the Pipmuacan caribou herd.

The scientific consensus on the measures to protect the caribou is clear, recalls Alain Branchaud.

“Canada’s Environment Minister has all the information on hand to make a decision and recommend the governor on the council to issue an executive order on the council,” he said.

Federal law requires Ottawa to take necessary measures to protect endangered species when provinces fail to meet their obligations, Kaitlin Power, spokeswoman for Minister Guilbeault, told La Presse.

“The door remains open for negotiations if Quebec really wants to work on caribou rehabilitation and conservation,” she added.

The office of Quebec Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks Pierre Dufour told La Presse it would not comment on Thursday evening.

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