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Ottawa retains the right to intervene by emergency decree or by decree to protect the critical habitat of deer.

Ottawa demands a caribou protection strategy by May 1

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Steven Guilbeault, federal Minister of the Environment.

  • David Rémillard (View profile)David Rémillard

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Ottawa will not resume negotiations with Quebec on species at risk until the strategy to protect the habitat of forest and mountain caribou has been tabled. Federal Minister Steven Guilbeault “strongly encourages” the province to send him the document before May 1.

Recent postponements of the schedule by Quebec clearly did not please the federal government. Quebec was to present its strategy for protecting woodland caribou habitat before the end of 2023, then last February.

Unable to agree at the interministerial consultation stage, particularly on economic considerations, the Legault government once again relegated the adoption of the strategy to later.

I am very concerned by these additional delays given the extremely precarious situation of this species and the need to quickly implement concrete and ambitious conservation measures, writes Mr. Guilbeault in a letter sent last Thursday to Benoit Charette, Minister Quebecois of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks.

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The woodland caribou continues to be at the heart of a political contest between Quebec and Ottawa, without new protection measures being put in place. (File photo)

Mr. Guilbeault sets a new deadline for Quebec. I strongly encourage the government of Quebec to publish its Strategy for forest and mountain caribou no later than May 1, we can read in the missive, a copy of which Radio-Canada obtained.

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He s& #x27;This is the first deadline required by Ottawa in more than a year and a half.

In the summer of 2022, the province committed to presenting its strategy the following summer, in June 2023. Quebec then had to propose measures that would ensure a maximum disruption rate of 35% in the #x27;habitat of each of the forest and mountain caribou herds on Quebec soil, a condition set by Environment Canada.

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The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, is ready to table the forest and mountain caribou protection strategy. Several ministries, however, requested adjustments. (File photo)

The deadline, however, was eliminated from federal requirements following last summer's historic wildfires. The Trudeau government had in fact agreed to give Quebec more time to allow it to calculate the impacts of the fires on the allowable cut, as well as their impact on the caribou strategy.

Since then, Quebec has only postponed.

The letter also reveals that negotiations between the province and Ottawa have broken down regarding the renewal of the Canada-Quebec Agreement for the protection of species at risk. The latter, which expired in March 2022, is no longer in force.

The reopening of negotiations on a possible collaboration agreement cannot take place until Environment and Climate Change Canada has received and evaluated the Strategy, adds Minister Guilbeault.

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Quebec has 13 herds of forest and mountain caribou. The latest population estimate reported a total population of just over 5,200 individuals. (Archive photo)

This agreement, which would allow transfers of money from the federal government to Quebec, aims to establish common objectives between both governments to meet the requirements of the Canadian Species at Risk Act.

From 2018 to 2022, the previous agreement allowed Quebec to receive $8.3 million from the federal government, only for the protection of caribou.

Steven Guilbeault still does not close the door to intervention by the federal government in Quebec to protect the critical habitat of the woodland caribou.

Two distinct processes were successively launched by the minister's office.

The first has never been used in the country, namely the decree to curb the destruction of the critical habitat of a species in peril, also called the safety net. If a province or territory does not do enough, the law provides for federal intervention. The holder of the ministry, in this case Steven Guilbeault, even has a legal obligation to do so.

The objective of this measure would be to limit the uses permitted in certain territories in order to reduce an acceptable rate of disturbance.

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Logging deprives woodland caribou of their essential habitat, more than 80% of which is disturbed in some cases. (File photo)

At the end of an analysis by his ministry presented in February 2023, the minister concluded that almost all of the critical habitat of the woodland caribou was not adequately protected in Quebec. I am required to recommend to the Governor in Council the issuance of a protection order for the unprotected parts of the critical habitat of the boreal caribou, he said.

This recommendation was made last winter, but the Trudeau government's cabinet of ministers opted instead for a collaborative approach with Quebec. Mr. Guilbeault does not rule out returning to the charge this spring if the Legault government does not meet the May 1 deadline.

Ottawa could also use emergency decrees for certain herds in more critical situations.

First mentioned last fall, emergency decrees are triggered in the event of an imminent threat to the survival or recovery of an endangered species protected by law. First Nations have lobbied Ottawa for such decrees to be evaluated. threats to the Government of Quebec and First Nations during the week of February 12, 2024 in order to obtain comments, writes Steven Guilbeault in his letter to Minister Charette sent last week.

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The mountain caribou of Gaspésie number more than thirty and form an ecotype distinct from other woodland caribou herds. (Archive photo)

Therefore, if I conclude that the species faces imminent threats to its survival or recovery, I will be required, under the Species Act in danger, to recommend to the Governor in Council to issue an emergency decree, he specifies.

The last inventory in Quebec, reported by the Independent Commission on Forest and Mountain Caribou, in 2022, reported 5,252 animals divided into 13 herds.

The herds of Val-d'Or and Charlevoix live today in protective enclosures, while the mountain caribou of Gaspésie are subject to capture of females in order to protect the fawns from predators. birth.

Several herds, including the Pipmuacan herd, are approaching critical thresholds of decline.

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