Another deplorable failure to truly address First Nations rights and issues

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 Filing of a motion by the Councils of the Innu First Nations of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh against the Quebec government for failure to consult

NITASSINAN, ESSIPIT and MASHTEUIATSH, QC, Feb. 24, 2022 /CNW/ – The inaction and lack of satisfactory response from the Quebec government, despite multiple attempts by the Innu to reach out in good faith, will have gotten the better of the patience of the Innu First Nation Council of Essipit and Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan (Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation), who have officially filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court for failure to fulfill its duty to consult on issues related to the protection of Atiku, the caribou.

For more than two decades, Innus have been actively involved in the fight to protect Atiku, which is at the heart of their identity and way of life. Tireless efforts have been made with the Quebec government to ensure that a consultation process and protection measures are put in place for the caribou and its habitat. However, the government has deliberately failed in its constitutional duty to consult and has ignored repeated requests for an appropriate Nation-to-Nation forum to discuss issues related to Atiku.

In 2016 and up until today, since the tabling of an action plan for the development of caribou habitat, the Quebec government has never taken into account nor respected the rights and decision-making role of First Nations concerning this species. Over the years, even though they have agreed to participate openly, the First Nations have deplored the setting up of inappropriate tables and forums that do not allow them to be adequately consulted and accommodated and, more generally, to discuss their ancestral rights, including their ancestral title and other interests.

Even recently, when First Nations submitted a rigorous consultation protocol that remained unanswered, the government continues to stubbornly stall, to multiply nebulous answers, with the explicit objective of imposing its independent commission, which is not the appropriate forum for debating the rights and issues of First Nations. Moreover, this commission is perceived by many as totally useless since the government already has all the specialists and data necessary to act on this issue.

For First Nations, procrastination is unacceptable because of the urgency of the caribou situation, whose decline is already causing an inevitable cultural loss and jeopardizing Aboriginal rights and title.

“Our First Nations have always collaborated in good faith and reiterated their willingness to be stakeholders in the development and decision-making regarding the caribou strategy, in an honourable Nation-to-Nation approach. The government should have seized the opportunity to demonstrate its sincere willingness to undertake the process of collaboration, consultation, and accommodation without delay, as the precarious situation of Atiku requires. We demand the respect of our ancestral rights and immediate measures to protect the caribou and its habitat, based on Innu and scientific knowledge. We recently stated that if the government cannot protect the caribou, the Innu will. We are keeping our promise,said the Chiefs, Mr. Martin Dufour of the Innu First Nation Council of Essipit and Mr. Gilbert Dominique of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, in one voice.

The Innu First Nation of Essipit is an Indigenous community whose Nitassinan (traditional territory) is located at the entrance to the North Shore, from the Saguenay Fjord to the Portneuf River. Essipit, which means “shell river”, is known for its community system inspired by ancestral traditions. Its economy is based mainly on the recreational tourism sector.

The Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation is in Lac-Saint-Jean. It has 8,533 members, many of whom live in the community of Mashteuiatsh. Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan is the political and administrative organization that represents the Pekuakamiulnuatsh.

SOURCE Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan

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