The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board is calling on governments to double their funding of the board.
The organization is meant to protect the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq barren-ground caribou herds. It includes community members from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as representatives from the governments of those jurisdictions and Canada.
As part of its virtual board meeting earlier this month, board members approved a proposed new management agreement that will carry it through to 2032 and make Indigenous governments equal partners in its management.
The organization wants the governments of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Canada to increase their annual funding to the board from $25,000 to $50,000 each. This would increase the board's annual budget from $125,000 to $250,000.
It is also asking its Indigenous partners to provide an additional $50,000, which would bring the board's budget to $300,000 in total.
'A really critical time'
Created in 1982, the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board was the first caribou co-management board in North America.
The board's incoming executive director, Tina Giroux-Robillard, said the work of protecting caribou has grown over the years due to climate change. She said the additional funding is critical for the board to be able to do this work.
Giroux-Robillard said the board is revising its caribou management plan next year.
"So it's a really critical time to really get it right and to help us identify the vulnerability of the herds, but also incorporate Indigenous knowledge with scientific knowledge and be able to implement it," she said.
"That's been one of our gaps — being able to access money to implement some of the responsibilities that the board has."
Ross Thompson, the outgoing director, said a professional economic study found that caribou harvest provides Indigenous people with more than $20 million annually.
According to him, the continued management of caribou is essential to the communities that rely on the animals.
"Caribou are the jobs up there, caribou are the economy up there," Thompson said. "I don't even want to think about flying in protein to some of those distant communities. So it's an economic, social and environmental must."
Part of reconciliation
Earl Evans, chair of the board, said the decline in caribou populations over time is a big loss for Indigenous communities and cultures.
He said governments should recognize that funding the board and supporting the preservation of caribou is a step toward reconciliation.
"There's a lot of people out there who have been affected and this is one way for the [federal] government — in the spirit of reconciliation — to send a message down to their provincial governments that this [funding] is part of reconciliation," he said.
The board has presented its proposed new agreement to the Nunavut, N.W.T., Manitoba, Saskatchewan and federal governments. Evans said it's hoping to secure funding by April 2022.