The Innu people of Nitassinan have pulled out of public hearings into low-level military flights over their land, saying the Canadian government isn’t interested in their input.

“It’s a sham,” said Daniel Ashini, director of Innu Rights and Environment for the Innu Nation. “We are extremely disappointed.”

Ottawa is holding the hearings because it wants to increase the number of flights from 8,000 per year to 15,000. The government also wants to expand the area where the flights take place from 100,000 square-kilometres to 130,000. The hearings started Sept. 19 in Goose Bay, Labrador.

Ashini, speaking at a conference on boreal forests in Edmonton in late August, criticized a study recently conducted by the Canadian military that said the low-level flights are not causing any major difficulties for local wildlife or the environment.

The Innu leader said the Canadian military had no business doing a study on itself in the first place. “It’s basically like asking McDonald’s to do a study where they must find out whether they make the best hamburgers or not. You know what they’re going to say.”

Ashini also criticized the hearings because they were scheduled at a time when hunters and trappers are in the bush. “These are people affected by the training and yet the panel is denying them the right to share their expertise and express their views,” said Ashini in a report in Windspeaker.