Newfoundland and Labrador claim Quebec Innu hunters are threatening to wipe out an endangered caribou herd.

Innu from five Quebec communities said they are willing to block every development project in northern Quebec and Labrador until all of their ancestral rights, including the caribou hunt, are recognized.

"It's a war that is getting underway," said Real McKenzie, chief of Matimekush-Lac-John, on the behalf of the Innu Strategic Alliance, representing 12,000 Innu. "We are ready to fight."

Last week, some 150 Quebec Innu went on a caribou hunting trip in Labrador to protest a deal which gives Labrador Innu hunting rights and compensation for the hydroelectric development of the lower Churchill River.

Ottawa is set to ink that deal in the coming weeks and the Quebec Innu want to prevent that from happening because the treaty would end their rights in Labrador.

McKenzie said the Quebec Innu have exhausted diplomatic avenues and are stepping up their actions to get their message across. He said that could include blocking natural resources projects such as Labrador's Lower Churchill project and two mining projects in Schefferville, Que.

"Our people will rise up. If we need to use barricades, we'll use them," McKenzie said, adding the Innu are also preparing legal proceedings against the federal government to block the deal with the Labrador Innu.

The Innu Alliance also told reporters in Quebec City Monday they're still reeling from what they said was the "avoidable" death of one of their own late last year. Innu hunters said they were taking their ill friend to a Churchill Falls, N.L., hospital last November when they were stopped by Newfoundland conservation officers.

The Innu claim they were stopped for three hours and that despite their calls for help and the hunter's state, provincial officers refused to request a helicopter to take him to the hospital. When Innu hunter Jean-Marc Bellefleur reached the Churchill Falls hospital he was transferred to Goose Bay, N.L., due to his critical condition and eventually to St. John's, N.L., where he was pronounced dead.

"This is very serious. It's almost murder," said George Bacon, chief of the Unamen Shipu community. "Had the officers requested the helicopter nearby, Mr. Bellefleur would still be alive today."

Bacon has called for a public inquiry into Bellefleur's death and said the Innu are preparing legal actions against the conservation officers.

The Innu didn't explain why they didn't raise the hunter's death earlier.The Newfoundland government was not available to comment Monday.Newfoundland and Labrador criticized the Quebec Innu for hunting caribou last week in a protected area that is home to an endangered herd. The Quebec Innu dispute that claim."For us, it's all the same woodland caribou and it's not endangered," said Bacon.

He said the 150 hunters have killed 250 caribous that will feed Innu families.

The Innu don't recognize the border between Quebec and Labrador and stress it is their right to keep hunting where they always have.Justice minister Felix Collin has said charges could be laid against the hunters if evidence of illegal activities is gathered.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service




16:20 Gepost door Martina Roels in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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