The survival of caribou is a pressing issue for the future MP for Abitibi-Est | Elections Quebec 2022

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The survival of the caribou is a pressing issue for the future deputy of Abitibi-Est | Élections Québec 2022

Studies, commission, enclosure: the question of the survival of the caribou of Val-d'Or has been in the headlines in recent years and the file should quickly bounce back on the desk of the future MP of Abitibi-Est.

In Val-d'Or, the caribou herd is made up of nine individuals.

With nine animals kept in captivity, the survival of the Val-d'Or herd remains uncertain.

In its final report tabled in August, the Independent Commission on Woodland Caribou called for rapid action, which includes more protected areas in the Val-d' Gold.

For Henri Jacob, president of Action boréale, work to save and rehabilitate this herd must begin now.

It's not too late, but if the government does not do what it should do in the case of an endangered species, they will disappear, it's as simple as that, he says.

Henri Jacob of Action boréale addressed the Commission on woodland and mountain caribou in April 2022.

In the project that we presented to the minister in 2018, he continues, we were talking about raising the population to 50 in three years. [This is] the minimum for it to be able to renew itself naturally. Yes, there is the argument of jobs, but we say that we have to change the way of seeing that. The forest must be rebuilt, helped by closing paths and planting to prevent hardwoods from establishing themselves there. We will probably be able to transfer a good part of these jobs.

At the City of Val-d'Or, the municipal council wants the rehabilitation of caribou, but actions must also consider all forest users.

Yes, the council wants caribou rehabilitation. It takes actions that will have positive impacts on biodiversity. But I am also challenged by the users of the forest. If they close forest roads that are used for hunting and vacationing, that will create discontent, recalls Mayor Céline Brindamour.

Martin Ferron fears it may be too late for these caribou.

The prefect of the MRC de la Vallée-de-l'Or is also campaigning for a plan to be presented by Quebec.

We can't wait to see what the government will deploy after its negotiations with the federal government. Unfortunately, they do not come to consult us in our reality, whereas it is we who are responsible for the management of the territory. We can't afford to lose one more species, not at home. If that little area causes a sawmill to close, we have a problem. This means that we have a problem in the supply of wood. We will have to redo the calculations, underlines Martin Ferron.

In Abitibi-Est, where the current Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour, is seeking a second term, the issue has not yet been raised during the election campaign.

Pierre Dufour, outgoing MNA for Abitibi-Est, Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks and Minister responsible for Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Nord-du-Québec .

The outgoing MP believes he has slowed the bleeding with the enclosure of the caribou. The one who promised a National Strategy in 2023 maintains that a more complete analysis of the file was necessary before moving.

I do not question what has been done in the past, but we must also have studies on the economic issues for the territories, says Pierre Dufour. What can be done to secure the animals and provide them with an adequate living environment, while ensuring that the communities can continue to pursue their economy and their recreational tourism activities? We have to find a balance, a harmonization.

For the candidate of Québec solidaire, Benjamin Gingras, the enclosure of caribou highlights the lack of long-term vision of governments for this herd.

Benjamin Gingras, Québec solidaire candidate in Abitibi-Est.

He advocates for rapid action, such as the establishment of protected areas and the reintegration of new individuals into the herd.

I visited the enclosures and it bothered me to see that this was the solution put forward, he says. The outgoing minister tabled the costed plans that had been presented to him. We must take actions outside the box and have a global vision for biodiversity. The caribou is the tip of the iceberg. To increase the areas to be protected by 1.5% is not catastrophic for the forest industry. There is a future for it in our ecological plan, which talks about increasing wood construction in Quebec. The region must play a role in this. You just have to do it intelligently while preserving wildlife and resources.

Liberal Jean-Maurice Matte believes that action must be taken to protect the caribou of Val-d' Gold, but he wonders if it's not too late to save them at all costs.

You can't always postpone decisions, he says. It is a highly politicized file and experts have expressed opinions and provided solutions. You have to trust them. Economic and environmental prudence must be adopted in connection with this. There are already logging and mining restrictions around caribou habitat. I am not ready to take drastic action. Opening the enclosures is not a solution, any more than overprotecting all the way to downtown Val-d'Or. There are few caribou left here, but I hope the Val-d'Or herd will at least serve as an example for other herds of the impact of neglect over time.

Curator Maxym Perron-Tellier also wonders about the ability to save the caribou of Val-d'Or, but he wants to sit down with the people of Lac-Simon to discuss it.

We have to try to do something, but we have the impression that it is too late, he underlines. I want to get involved with the community of Lac-Simon. The policy depends on the expectations of the people on the ground. I want to collaborate with them. We have to balance the pros and cons. I don't want to give up the caribou or the jobs. But the position of Aboriginal people is important. We must respect their position and nothing will be imposed on them.

As for Jacline Rouleau, of the Parti Québécois, she also promises to study the file carefully if she is elected as a Member of Parliament.

We must find solutions together for their protection, find a balance that will not affect the neither are jobs, she points out. This is an important file for the party and myself, but you have to sit down in order to look at the file properly. What do we do? Do we continue to supervise and feed them? If something happens overnight and they're on the loose, they won't know what to do either. They will have become accustomed to having food nearby. It can't last like this in the long term.

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