Caribou harvest: The province of Newfoundland and Labrador fails to fulfill its constitutional obligations
- Caribou harvest: The province of Newfoundland and Labrador fails to fulfill its constitutional obligations
NUTASHKUAN, QC, April 3 /CNW Telbec/ - The Nutashkuan First Nation warns the government of Newfoundland and Labrador against any and all measures taken against its members that are pursuing traditional caribou hunting activities on ancestral lands which include significant portions of Labrador.
Notwithstanding the recognition by the government of Canada of Nutashkuan Innu aboriginal rights on said lands, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador refuses to engage in negotiations in good faith with the Nutashkuan First Nation to reconcile their respective interests through honourable negotiations specifically aimed at aboriginal harvesting rights at the heart of the cultural identity of its members and, in general terms, aimed towards an Agreement-in-Principle which could eventually lead to a constitutionally protected treaty containing interim measures pertaining to caribou harvesting activities.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador admits, in its News Release dated March 23, 2009, that the Nutashkuan First Nation have aboriginal rights in Labrador. Despite said admission, the province refuses to fulfill its constitutional obligations, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, in particular with regard to consultation and accommodation pertaining to harvesting activities that have priority over that of other users.
Moreover, the government of Canada had to force the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to respect its obligation to consult Quebec Innu in the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project. Nevertheless, the same province intervened in the Romaine Hydroelectric Complex Project claiming that the project could have an impact on caribou habitat.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has adopted laws, regulations and policies regarding caribou management that are unenforceable against Nutashkuan Innu since the latter were not previously consulted or accommodated, through meaningful and distinct consultations in conformity with the teachings of the Supreme Court. Such consultation implies the timely exchange of all pertinent information in order to make an informed decision and the receipt of expert reports (ideally mutually agreed upon) describing, in detail, the issues surrounding caribou management on lands in question, as well as the impacts of said measures on a traditional activity that the Innu have been pursuing on their lands for centuries.
Brief trivial information sessions in which the government of a province unilaterally announces the adoption of laws, regulations and policies forbidding the exercise of an aboriginal right, obviously do not meet the constitutional obligations imposed upon Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, said laws, regulations and policies are, at first sight, unconstitutional, unless the province obtains the informed consent of the First Nation inquestion.
If the province of Newfoundland and Labrador had acted honourably and in good faith towards Nutashkuan Innu, a management plan could have been drafted in collaboration with representatives from the Nutashkuan First Nation. Said management plan could have substantially addressed the rights and concerns expressed by the Innu and constituted a solid base for a future partnership between the Innu and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. On said issue, it is useful to recall that the traditional knowledge of the Innu has ensured, over the centuries, conservation of the caribou until extermination of herds caused by the harvesting activities of non aboriginals, permitted by Newfoundland and Labrador.
While affirming the will of the Nutashkuan First Nation to preserve a resource at the very core of the traditional subsistence of the Nutashkuan Innu, the Nutashkuan First Nation is prepared to collaborate with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador in establishing a negotiation table which could provide meaningful and complete consultation on a constitutional level. Eventually, said negotiation table could lead to the development of conservation and accommodation measures that promote peaceful and harmonious coexistence between the Innu and conservation officers of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, without eliminating the necessity of undertaking land claim negotiations which could eventually lead to a constitutionally protected treaty.
For further information: Chief François Bellefleur, Nutashkuan First Nation Band Council, (418) 726-3529, Cell.: (418) 964-9724; Mr. Francis Malec, Nutashkuan First Nation Band Council, (418) 726-3529
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