Odd - dontcha think - that members of the Innu Nation chose the last part of last week to challenge the provincial government on caribou hunting in an area where previously they’d been generally supportive.
Every year, usually in the spring, some Innu from Quebec cross the border and take down a few of the very few remaining caribou in the Red Wine herd. There’s always a flurry of news coverage and righteously indignant news releases from the provincial wildlife minister.
This year, the controversy arose in November, coincidental with the Churchill Falls/Lower Churchill meeting of Atlantic Premiers and involved some of the Innu from Sheshatshiu.
The spokesperson was Peter Penashue who – again just coincidentally - has also been front and centre lately, discussing the latest round of never-ending discussions to finalise a land claims deal that was supposedly finalised last fall and which Penashue recently said actually wouldn’t be done for another three years or so.
On the caribou issue, Penashue was hammering away at the supposed lack of consultation between the Innu and the provincial government on wildlife management.
More interestingly though, here’s how the Globe contrasted Penashue from five years ago when the Quebec Innu were doing the spring hunt and Penashue today:
"No one knows for sure if Red Wine woodland caribou were killed, or, if they were, how many," he wrote then in The Globe and Mail.
"The hunt in the Red Wine caribou range was not just an illegal protest, it was completely inconsistent with Innu values. ... Putting a threatened caribou herd at further risk can never be justified on the basis of aboriginal rights."
He said last night that "I obviously wouldn't concur with" that statement now, saying that he had lost faith in the provincial government's ability to manage the caribou.
Interestingly, Premier Danny Williams described the Innu land claims agreement as being crucial to the Lower Churchill:
Williams recently told a Telegram editorial board that if the New Dawn Agreement with the Labrador Innu isn't ratified, the Lower Churchill deal would die.
That’s from a story in the Saturday edition which isn’t on line.
The timing is rather interesting, though.
If the Innu were really close to settling the land claims issue with the provincial government that is so crucial to the Lower Churchill project, then it seems odd the point man on the New Dawn agreement would be out on such a particular day in such a conspicuous way tackling the provincial government for its lack of consultation.
We’ll all know something is up for certain – he said perhaps only somewhat facetiously - if the Fan Klub starts linking Penashue to Hydro Quebec and Shawn Graham.
And the Pentavaret.