A non-native outfitter is asking for the exclusive access to fish along the Caniapiscau River and has already been given the go ahead by the Cree. The outfitter, Club Chambeaux, has been in existence for over 50 years. They first put in a request for exclusive access in 1993 to the Quebec government in order, they say, to protect their investment and the environment.
There are other outfitters and individuals who land their planes in the area and Club Chambeaux is worried about over fishing.
The area in question is designated as category III land. Although it is technically Cree land, it is accessible by the general public, unlike category I and II lands, which have the stipulation of being accessible only by native people.
Bill Namagoose told the Nation that Cree rights are not being infringed upon or violated in any way and that the Cree are exempt and may enter the area to fish and hunt at any time.
He says that the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi members of the Hunting Fishing Trapping Coordinating Committee approved this deal and that if there are any problems, these members can protest it and try to have it revoked.
Namagoose adds that this granting of exclusive access has been done before. He says it does not involve the giving away of any land, rather it allows a business to have access to the land with no part of the profit going to the people who own it.
Namagoose could not say who the land belongs to, noting that the Cree, the Naskapi and Inuit all lay claim to it. He says that the Cree people did have a chance to object to the outfitter setting up camps on the Caniapiscau River, but that no one did so at the time and since they are not violating any rights or laws, they cannot simply be ousted at this time. The Grand Council would like it known that they do not support the granting of exclusive rights. As of yet there is no comment from the Grand Council regarding what course of action, if any, will be taken.
There are some people who are delaying the process saying that the area is not in danger of being over fished and that by granting exclusive rights, ordinary citizens will have fewer rights to fish than paying citizens. The area is fairly remote and only accessible by plane. It is rich in brook trout, ouananiche, lake trout, great northern pike and corregone. The outfitter states “the many rapids existing in the sector favour anglers who are seeking trophy fish” and that “catching real trophies is an everyday occurrence.” When the Nation spoke with a representative at Club Chambeaux, I was told the deal had not yet been approved, but they were expecting one soon.