« The Val-d’Or caribou herd was transported south of Val-d’Or last March. This measure was supposed to be a short-term solution. Eight months later, the caribou are still there waiting for better solutions », writes the author of this letter.

Source: Mélissa Mollen Dupuis – Responsible for the boreal campaign

Your mobilization will have moved mountains! In this case, deer, because citizen indignation saw the slaughter of 15 white-tailed deer turn into a relocation.

When I think about what citizens can do, I can’t help but turn my mind to the Val-d’Or region.

A hot scientific report from the Algonquin community of Lac-Simon, in collaboration with biologist Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, from the University of Rimouski, brings important facts for the survival of the Val-d’Or herd that had been talked about in the past, as it had been threatened to be completely relocated from its environment to the Saint-Félicien zoo. Luckily, this crazy idea was abandoned thanks to the mobilization of the Quebec population, which was outraged at such a senseless solution.

The Val-d’Or caribou herd was then transported, by plane, to a 1.8-hectare enclosure south of Val-d’Or last March, in the midst of the confusion at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. This measure was intended to be a short-term solution. Eight months later, the caribou are still there waiting for better solutions.

Luckily, they have not been forgotten; the Lac-Simon community, citizens of Val-d’Or and representatives of the scientific community are spokespersons for those forgotten about the crisis which, despite the protection of the government, lost another of its representatives during the summer, bringing to six the last members of the genome specific to the Val-d’Or herd.

Solutions, however, do exist, and the Anishnabe community and its allies have been proposing them for a very long time. In 2018, they received $1.26 million from a federal fund to support their research and recovery projects for the Val-d’Or herd, but the caribou are still trapped in their enclosures.

Why can’t we see any progress when the Anishnabe community, science and the federal government agree to go ahead with a recovery project? The stalemate is at the provincial governance level, unfortunately, because in this particular situation, we still see jurisdictional issues between the federal and provincial governments: one protects endangered species and the other manages their habitat.

In this case, since we are talking about redeveloping logging roads in order to restore caribou habitat, these permits are issued by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFFP). The same ministry that issued the permits to harvest deer in Michel-Chartrand Park in Longueuil. Following citizen mobilization, a new permit will have to be issued to establish the terms and conditions for the movement of the deer, which were rescued in extremis by the population. Please note that we are not talking about a deer threatened with extinction in Canada, unlike the woodland caribou.

Surprisingly, the same reasons motivated the community of Longueuil to defend the deer as the one that motivates the Anishnabe community of Lac-Simon: the emotional relationship established. A millennial relationship motivates the duty of many nations to seek to protect the caribou. When we think that without it, our ancestors would not have survived, it is not surprising to see the many communities seeking to return the favour. What will be lost will never be found again, so what Lac-Simon is trying to accomplish with love and determination should come as no surprise to the people of the South and will make them understand their determination to fulfill their role as guardians of the territory and everything that lives there.

The interdependence between living beings, whether human or not, is a science that has long been carried by the indigenous communities living throughout the territory and this knowledge resonates with truths common to all its inhabitants.

You will understand that if 30 deer could not cohabit in a 185-hectare urban park, the Val-d’Or caribou will not be able to survive in 1.8 hectares of enclosures in the heart of the boreal forest. They will need all the help they can get from the public.

Science, ancestral knowledge and all the motivation to get to work are waiting, all that blocks is the lack, it is the political motivation. Let us motivate our politicians to listen to their citizens. When the MFFFP modifies the permit needed by the city of Longueuil, couldn’t it also sign the permit needed by the caribou of Val-d’Or?