January 18, 2012
Minister Terry French
Minister of the Environment and Conservation
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, NL.
Dear Minister French:
I write to you today to bring forward a concern I have, regarding the George River Caribou Herd here in Labrador. I am afraid of what will happen to this herd of caribou if something is not done, and I am asking you, the Minister responsible for the environment and conservation to do something about this before the George River Caribou herd is nothing more than a memory.
I also tried to make my concerns known to Minister Nick McGrath, Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, but, to date, he has not responded to my calls.
Since December, the Innu of Quebec have been present here in Labrador hunting the George River Caribou Herd, before the Zone was opened and to this day, they continue to do so.
It is a known fact that the numbers in this herd of caribou have been declining, and you, the Minister and your Government choose to do nothing to stop this yearly slaughter.
I spoke to my MHA, Keith Russell yesterday regarding this matter and he told me that he has brought these concerns to you on behalf of a number of his constituents. He said you asked for proof that this is actually going on.
I've been told by hunters from this area that while they were being checked by the Provincial Conservation Officers, Innu from Quebec were driving by with their komatiks full of caribou and nothing was done; they were not being monitored or stopped by the Conservation Officers. But who could blame these Officers for turning a blind eye after what happened in 2009 when three Conservation Officers were suspended by their own Government/Employer for trying to enforce the law on the Quebec Innu in on the Churchill Falls road.
At that time, Kathy Dunderdale was Minister of Natural Resources and she chose to do what you are doing now, absolutely nothing. At that time I was asked to, and I provided photographs to your Conservation Officers of the hunt but nothing was ever done. So, if you need proof in order to do something about this now, the information is readily available from your own employees, the Conservation Officers.
The Quebec Innu are coming and taking as many animals as they want, while residents of this province are not permitted to transfer their licenses to have someone else hunt for them. Many people do not have the Hunter Capability card and, even if they did, cannot hunt for themselves, take our Elders for example.
I find this to be a total disgrace and injustice to the people of this province, and as far as I'm concerned the NL Government have turned their backs on these people.
The Innu from Quebec can come and take as many animals as they want while many of our own people have to go without. I would like to know if the Quebec hunters are reporting back to the NL Government the number of animals they are taking. Do they have to complete the same health monitoring sample packages as hunters from this area? I assume they have to abide by this as well, how else would the health of the caribou be determined if you didn't gather this information from everyone taking part in the hunt.
CBC Radio did an interview with a lady from Quebec and she reported that her husband took 12 caribou for her household and three other households. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador needs to revisit the legislation and put a limit on the number of caribou any person can take to protect the herd, to ensure it stays a viable herd. And the law needs to be enforced and adhered to, no matter who you are. A dead caribou is a dead caribou Minister French, it doesn't matter who is on the shooting end of the gun.
I would also like to tell you that I spoke to some residents of the community of Sheshathiu to see how they feel regarding the Quebec Innu coming here to hunt. An Elder told me she is ashamed of what is going on and prays the Innu from Sheshathiu are not seen in the same light as the Quebec Innu. Another person told me some community members are outraged by this and would like to see something done about it as well. It's up to you and your Government to do something Minister French.
My guess is this, the NL Government is not willing to take a stand regarding this issue due to the Lower Churchill project, for fear of jeopardizing that deal. No money is involved when it comes to our caribou so you are not willing to stand up and do what is right, treating us all the same and imposing the same set of rules and regulations.
I'd like to point out Minister French, Labrador contributes greatly to this Province with our natural resources and you are obligated to do your job by protecting our resources as well. We deserve better than this.
I would appreciate a written response indicating what you are doing as the Minister responsible, in terms of protecting the George River Caribou Herd and I would like answers to the questions I have outlined in this letter.
At least I can say I tried to do something about this atrocity, which is more than I can say for you and your Government Minister French.
Northwest River, NL.
CC. Mr. Peter Penashue
Mr. Keith Russell
Mr. Nick McGrath
Premier Kathy Dunderdale
Mr. Tony Chubbs, President, Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association
The Labradorian Newspaper