NEMASKA, Québec - DECEMBER 19, 2016 - Results of the Leaf River Caribou herd census conducted during the summer of 2016 combined with a recent fall classification census, revealed its population to be at a dangerous new low: 181,000. This figure is in stark contrast with the 2011 population census of 430,000. Given this new data, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Isthee)/Cree Nation Government is urging the Quebec Government to close the 2017-2018 caribou sport hunt until the Leaf River Caribou herd has reached acceptable recovery numbers.
The James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) contain obligations upon the Government of Quebec in regards to taking action to preserve the caribou population which the Cree, the Naskapi and the Inuit have depended upon for centuries. The plunging population of caribou and failure of the Government to act is moving beyond the breach of Treaty obligations for the preservation of Indigenous people’s rights to access this important resource to the destruction of a way of life.
Refusal of the Government of Quebec to close the sport hunt for caribou when the Treaty Right or traditional way of life is already threatened is irresponsible and a clear breach of the JBNQA and the NEQA.
“We are very concerned about the conservation of the herd and the impacts of this dangerous decline. Caribou is an important resource for our northern communities that rely on it for food, clothing, and the pursuit and sharing of our cultural traditions and knowledge. The Quebec Government must comply to their obligations and respect our treaty rights that prioritize our needs for sustenance.” - Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come
To reduce the pressure on the herd, all efforts are required to minimize harvest to help increase its capacity to recover. The Cree Nation has been working to respond to requests from other First Nation communities to access caribou in the JBNQA territory, which we cannot rightfully allow at this time considering the status of the caribou population. The low-level population status requires that we make all efforts to reduce pressure on the herd.
“We recognize that this will have economical impacts on outfitters, including our own Cree outfitters, but the impacts of the herd’s extinction will be far greater on the food security and culture of the Native people. The survival of a people and their traditions must be considered a priority over commercial activity.” – Isaac Voyageur, Director of Environment and Remedial Works, Cree Nation Government.
The Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC), the co-management body that oversees the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Regime in the JBNQA, has recently recommended to the Quebec Government the complete closure of the sport hunt as of January 31, 2017. The Quebec Government has the obligation to implement the principal of priority and respect the negotiated Guaranteed Level of Harvest.