Wildlife officials in Quebec have seized a caribou that was intended to be given as a gift between Indigenous governments in Quebec and Labrador, the Innu Nation says.
Several people — including Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich — were bringing a harvested caribou from Quebec to Labrador (Maritimes) on Tuesday afternoon when the officers seized the caribou and fined them, according to a news release from the Innu Nation.
It happened in Oujé-Bougoumou, Quebec, a Cree (First Nations) community about 300 kilometres northwest of Saguenay.
The caribou belonged to the Leaf River herd, a population that has declined nearly 70 per cent over the last 20 years, according to Quebec’s Forestry Ministry. Several First Nations and Inuit groups have taken steps to protect and preserve the herd.
The Innu Nation’s news release says Rich carried a letter from Chief Davey Bobbish from the Chisasibi Cree First Nation, declaring the caribou as a gift to the Innu Nation and supporting them in taking the caribou to Labrador.
But the wildlife officers did not accept the letter as valid, seizing the caribou, according to the release.
“The practice of historical sharing between the Cree and the Innu of what is now Labrador goes back to long before the assertion of sovereignty by the Crown,” Rich said in the release, who called the actions “colonial.”
CBC News contacted wildlife authorities in Quebec for comment on this story, but had not yet received a response Tuesday evening.
A spokesperson for Rich said he was travelling and unavailable for an interview Tuesday, but he would be speaking with CBC’s Labrador Morning radio show Wednesday morning.
The Innu Nation formally represents about 2,200 Innu people living in Labrador, most of whom live in the communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Ottawa considers listing Labrador caribou herds as at-risk species, CBC News
Norway: Norwegian «slow TV» follows reindeer herd to the coast of the Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Russia plans fenced parks to confine reindeer herding in Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic
United States: Amid shrinking sea ice, hunters race to adapt in Alaska, Alaska Public Media