Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

The protection of a virgin forest promised by Quebec never took place.

Les Hurons -Wendat denounce the

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The forest which the Huron-Wendat call Ya'nienhonhndeh (Where medicinal plants are gathered) covers an area of ​​800 km², a large part of which is considered intact.

  • David Rémillard (View profile)David Rémillard

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Insulted by the “hypocrisy” of the Legault government, the Huron-Wendat Nation is raising its voice and once again demanding the reservation of the virgin forest of Lac à Moïse. More than two years after receiving a promise to this effect from the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, the word “blockade” is starting to circulate in Wendake.

Québec announced, in June 2021, the creation of a pilot project for a protected area of ​​sustainable use and indigenous initiative. The project in question was that of the Huron-Wendat, refined for a decade by the Office of Nionwentsïo, the name given to the Wendat ancestral territory.

The day the creation of the protected area was announced, Benoit Charette affirmed that of the 750 km2 targeted by the project, a vast part of the virgin forest was immediately placed under protection. x27;logging.

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Map of the protected area proposed by Wendake

However, the protection of this forest, located to the west of the Laurentides wildlife reserve, has not yet been applied and the protected area is not legally constituted. On the contrary, even though sectors identified by Wendake are still allocated to forestry companies in the regional development plan, deplore the Hurons-Wendat.

Faced with the stretching deadlines, the great chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Rémy Vincent, no longer intends to laugh. Why hasn't this been put under reserve yet?, he asks impatiently. The one currently blocking is only the government of Quebec.

After putting pressure on Quebec to step up its pace, Wendake criticizes the absence of consultations to define the limits of the protected area.

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Rather than responding to the demands of the Huron-Wendat, the Quebec government recently sent a proposal to Wendake to delimit the contours of the reserve zone, that is, the portion of the protected area without exploitation of resources. Mr. Vincent deplores the removal of approximately 40 km2 of intact or naturally regenerating forests (without human intervention).

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Lake Batiscan is part of the planned zone for the protected area

We try to tamper with the surface, it works underneath without consulting us. It is not normal for the Ministry of Forests to work behind our backs to establish new limits, says the great chief. We're not in a healthy relationship right now. It's not complicated, it's hypocritical.

The strict conservation zone would thus increase from 375 km2 to 335. The great chief recalls that the law requires that at least half of a sustainable use protected area be set aside. The government is breaking its own law with the current proposal, he says.

According to the Natural Heritage Conservation Act, a sustainable use protected area is characterized by the presence of natural conditions over the majority of its territory.

According to the Huron-Wendat Nation Council, the entrenched massifs correspond to sectors allocated to forestry companies in the 2018-2023 development plan for the Capitale-Nationale region.

Although Quebec has for the moment imposed cutting moratoriums for these sectors at the request of Wendake, the great chief's confidence is shaken. If the moratoriums are lifted, the loggers will get in there and it's over.

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The Quebec government's proposal excludes a series of lakes used by the Huron-Wendat for traveling, hunting and fishing. Quebec is removing some 40 square kilometers of intact forest, according to Wendake.

If this forest is cut down, the heart of the protected area will be cut down with it, insists Rémy Vincent. The great chief calls for the immediate reservation of virgin forest areas and their removal from current and future forest management plans.

In a letter sent to the government at the beginning of the week, the Council of the Huron-Wendat Nation denounces the complete evacuation of the cultural aspect of the protected area project. The First Nation does not feel like it is speaking the same language as the province and believes that the government's analysis is essentially economic.

Everything therefore suggests that this proposal to set aside territory for conservation purposes responds to economic prerogatives and interests rather than ecological and heritage ones, we can read in the missive.

In response to this letter, Rémy Vincent obtained assurance from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests on Friday that no forest development activity is not planned or permitted throughout the protected area at this time.

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Le Grand Chef Rémy Vincent (Archive photo)

According to the agreement reached between Quebec and the Council of the Huron-Wendat Nation, the project was to be co-chaired by the two parties, from nation to nation. We don't have the same definition of co-presidency, says Rémy Vincent ironically. He accuses the provincial government of working in silos and of not respecting its obligation to consult the First Nation.

The Council is reaching the point where it no longer knows how to make itself heard by Quebec. Although it considers itself open to compromise, the council is inflexible on the protection of the virgin forest.

During the interview with Radio-Canada, Rémy Vincent referred to the blockades of Atikamekw communities that have occurred in recent months, also to protect ancestral territory indigenous people of logging.

I have some news for the minister, but the territory does not belong to them. If it takes more than that in the region to be heard, it may start to happen. […] Should we go there? That's not where I want to go. But maybe we will have to do it, because there is no seriousness there.

A quote from Rémy Vincent, great chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation

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A massif of virgin forests identified by the Huron-Wendat Nation

Rémy Vincent recalls that the Wendake project is the first of its kind in Quebec and that the ways of doing things should become the model for others. This is the pilot project, this is what will dictate the way forward for protected areas of indigenous initiative [and sustainable use]. This is where the problem lies. Is it going to be like this for all First Nations? We got off to a bad start.

For its part, the government replies that it takes time to complete the work of preparing the protected area. Setting aside a territory requires a lot of work at the administrative level, which is what was done over the last year, indicates in writing the office of Minister Benoit Charette.

The conservation core to be set aside is only part of the planned sustainable use protected area. Talks will begin once this first step has been completed, we add.

In other words, Quebec intends to consult Wendake, but once the contours of the protected area have been defined. The government says it wants to consult all the stakeholders concerned in the territory before making decisions.

Wendake, for his part, ensures that he has already done this work and that all partners, including forestry companies, support the project protected area as it was presented.

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