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 in
question.
    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:

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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NUTASHKUAN FIRST NATION BAND COUNCIL

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