03 March 2010

The Politics of the Caribou

Some pictures turned up in ye olde in-box showing caribou in Labrador.  The shots were taken this year.

At this point don’t get concerned with the discussion of which herd is which.  Are biologists in agreement that the various herds  - George, Red Wine, Joir, etc - are actually separate entities?  Or are they merely sub-sets of one large caribou population that ranges over what some people have referred to as the Quebec-Labrador peninsula?


If the Red Wine herd was really only 100 animals and it seldom migrated very far then six or seven years of hunting by both Labrador and Quebec Innu should have wiped them out.  Well, certainly if the Innu are reportedly taking way more than 100 animals every season.

The biology of it is one thing.  The politics of it is another and as this story of the Innu hunt has really taken off, people are getting a better perspective on the deep political cleavages that lay behind the annual caribou media frenzy.

There is the pressure on the provincial government, evidenced by a statement issued by Hisself  - presumably recuperating from heart surgery in sunnier climes - and the companion piece – a media availability by Hisself’s hand-picked political mouthpiece and occasional stunt-double.


Then there is Innu leader Peter Penashue pissing all over the Quebec Innu for supposedly being backward-assed and stunned.  Peter reveals the schism between the Innu south of the border and those north of it pretty nakedly. He may also be a bit ticked at being on the receiving end of some of the same tactics he and his associates have been known to use, but that’s another story.

But truth be told, Peter himself is not representing a monolithic group. Heck, Peter’s own mother isn’t on side with the deal.  And when it comes to hunting endangered caribou, Peter was singing a very different tune before Christmas than the one he spouts today.


In other words, the issues involved in this are complex.  They cannot be dismissed as easily as Peter dismisses them or as some of the non-aboriginal people of the south are making them out to be. 

Heck, it isn’t clear yet Peter’s own crowd north of the border will buy into the New Dawn or view it as merely a dolled up version of the original Matshishkapeu Accord. He may like people to think that everything is tucked in, but we heard that same story from him when the Matshishkapeu Accord rolled out the first time.  Whatever happened to that January 31 2009 ratification vote, there, Peter? 

As with a herd of caribou, there is much more to this story than may first appear.