A conservation group criticized Quebec over caribou. So the province cut ties with them

The Quebec government has ended its partnership with a conservation group after it criticized the forest ministry for not doing enough to protect caribou herds.

Action Boréale, based in Val-d'Or, had partnered with the government to develop a strategy to protect the endangered herds in the area. 

The group posted on its Facebook page that Francis Forcier, the director of strategic mandates with Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, was responsible for the crisis due to his inaction on the caribou file.

The statement was in reaction to news that the ministry was going to lift a ban on logging operations in three forest ranges in the Lac Saint-Jean area.

The group wanted the public to know why the file wasn't progressing, said Henri Jacob, the president of Action Boréale.

"Unfortunately, people are really camped in their positions," he said. "It doesn't seem like the caribou have a voice at the table."

The ministry responded by severing ties with the group and sending a legal notice demanding that they remove the post.

Denis Desjardins/SEPAQ

Ministry calls behaviour 'unacceptable'

In a statement, the ministry said the post was "practically an intimidation attempt" toward one of its employees.

"We are surprised. Surprised and we find that it's an unacceptable way to characterize this file," said Christian Therrien, the communications director for the ministry.

He said that Forcier is a career public servant and that "this stops here." The ministry will move forward with other partners, such as the municipalities and universities in the area, as well as industry associations.

Earlier this week, the ministry also criticized a biologist from the Université du Québec à Rimouski. Martin-Hugues Saint-Laurent criticized plans to kill wolves as a way to protect the population, and said that human activity should be limited in crucial areas instead.

Pierre Dufour, minister for forests, wildlife and parks, said it was easy for Saint-Laurent to say that "from his ivory tower at the university in Rimouski."

Saint-Laurent did his post-doctoral internship on caribou.

As for Action Boréale, Jacob said the group will continue to work on the file, with or without the ministry's involvement.

But at this rate, he said he is not optimistic that the caribou herd will survive.

Thomas Deshaies/Radio-Canada

Caribou population dropping

The herds in both the Val-d'Or and Charlevoix regions herds have fewer than 30 caribou.

St-Laurent said he maintains that the forest industry overtaking caribou habitat is a "long-standing" problem that needs addressing.

The ministry recently set aside 46,000 hectares for the forestry industry near Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. The space was previously under administrative protection for the caribou.

"The government doesn't have a lot of leadership in deciding to conserve swaths of habitat and curb logging," he said.

The Quebec government previously refused to back efforts to save caribou in the region, saying it would be too expensive and the chances of the caribou surviving were slim to none.