In 1999 “l’Erreur Boréale” smashed our screens (feature documentary, directed by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie), updating the reality of the exploitation and destructive management of our Quebec forests.
Today, after all the reforms of the forestry regime, the restructuring of the various ministries, the commissions of inquiry, the scientific studies – after all this administrative and media mess – the situation has not changed one iota. All this was window-dressing to deceive the population worried and concerned by the preservation of the forests and ecosystems of the province.
A press review from the Revue In Vivo (Association des biologistes du Québec [ABQ], Winter 2021) assesses the woodland caribou situation in Quebec. The species has been classified as vulnerable since 2005, but the government has still not developed a recovery strategy for this cervid. The Legault government decided last year to postpone the development of a strategy to prevent its disappearance until 2022 and abolished measures to protect three forest areas, which are suitable habitats for caribou.
Le Devoir presents in the edition of Feb. 13 and 14, 2021, the situation of the day: Quebec is abandoning 83 projects of protected areas (and thus, missing the target of 17 per cent of protection for terrestrial natural habitats), which would have made it possible to protect the habitat of the increasingly threatened caribou. We are thus missing an opportunity to better protect the habitat of woodland caribou; the decline continues and many herds are in an extremely precarious situation. The same is true for all species associated with old forests.
The same situation prevails across Canada — still the same short-term vision. The industry arrives with the threat of job loss and negative economic impact and dismisses all the committed speeches of our elected officials.
The caribou is just one example. Its big, easy to identify, indigenous populations are directly affected, so we talk about it. But the global reality is dramatic. Species living on earth are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the World Resources Institute, 100 species are disappearing every day due to deforestation and habitat loss. Our way of managing natural resources, which are essentially predatory, is unsustainable.
In September 2019, we walked the streets with Greta [Thunberg], the world populations rallied to pass the message of urgency and calls to action to all elected officials. Now hit by the pandemic, saturated with containment measures, the population seems to be drowning in unnecessary information as governments do their best to hide the fact that they are doing nothing constructive for the protection of forests and habitats.
So what do we do now? What disaster are we waiting for to make a clear commitment to change our habits of consumption and abusive exploitation of the planet?
Michèle Labelle is a biologist, specialising in environment protection and watershed management. She lives in La Pêche.