Three Innu men from Quebec were fined on Jan. 7 after being found guilty of illegally hunting caribou in Labrador in 2015.
The three men, Roger Mark, Jacques Mark and Jean-Phillipe Vollant, were found guilty of violating the Wildlife Act and fined $1,000 each. Vollant was also found guilty of obstructing a wildlife officer and fined $200.
Prosecutor Jim Clarke had asked Judge Kari Ann Pike to impose penalties on the lower end of the range because the three men co-operated with the wildlife officers.
“It was non-confrontational is what I’d suggest and that is why the Crown is leaning towards the lower end of those scales and recommending the court impose minimum fines,” he told the court at the sentencing hearing.
The incident that lead to the charges happened on Oct. 25, 2015. The Fish and Wildlife enforcement division in Happy Valley-Goose Bay received a complaint that three men were illegally hunting caribou in the Birchy Lake area. Four officers were sent out to do a helicopter patrol of the area and saw a tent set up near the edge of Birchy Lake.
They landed, went to the campsite and found the Mark brothers there, with Vollant offshore in a canoe. When asked to come ashore by the officers, he initially refused before complying. That refusal is what led to his obstruction charge.
The officers seized hunting gear, a rifle, a shotgun, and meat and animal parts at the campsite. The meat was sent to Trent University to be identified and it was verified to be caribou. A report entered into evidence verified that the camp location and hunt was within the range of the Mealy Mountain population, which are listed as endangered.
During the sentencing, defence lawyer Francois Levesque said the men, who have hunted caribou since they were children, had acted respectfully to the caribou, which the Innu have traditionally hunted for generations.
“It was a very respectful manner of doing the infraction, if I may put it that way,” Levesque said. “It’s not the worst case we’ve seen of poaching, if I can put it like that. Of course, the remaining fact is that caribou is endangered. Whether it is Red Wine caribou, George River caribou, it was endangered.”
Pike said it was an aggravating factor that the men had planned the trip knowing they were not allowed to hunt caribou in the area, but there were also a number of mitigating factors. There was no indication the hunt was for anything but subsistence, she said, and on land the Innu have traditionally used for that purpose for a long time.
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram