James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement
The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) was signed in 1975, by the Cree and Inuit of Québec and the Canadian and Québec governments. This was the first treaty to be termed “modern” in Canada, meaning that it is a comprehensive land claim agreement.
Chapter 24 of the JBNQA concerns the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Regime. Under the JBNQA, polar bear is a species that can be hunted exclusively by the Cree and the Inuit. The latter peoples also benefit from a guaranteed level of harvesting in terms of polar bears, across the territory covered by the JBNQA, i.e., all three subpopulations of polar bears in Québec, when, in accordance with conservation principles, the demographic situation of the subpopulations so permits.
Management of this species is done in collaboration with the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC), established under Section 24 of the JBNQA for the purpose of administering the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Regime.
Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement
In the Eeyou Marine Region (EMR), wildlife management is governed by the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement (EMRLCA), an agreement signed by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the federal government and the Government of Nunavut. Under this agreement, the polar bear species is reserved exclusively to the Eeyou Istchee Cree in the EMR.
The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB) was created under the EMRLCA which makes decisions regarding questions related to the management of wildlife species in EMR, including the polar bear.
The Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement
In the Nunavik Marine Region (NMR), the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (NILCA), an agreement signed by the Nunavik Inuit, the federal government and the Government of Nunavut, applies.
Under this agreement, the polar bear species is reserved exclusively to the Inuit of Nunavik in the NMR. The Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMRWB) was created under this agreement and is responsible for decision-making regarding questions related to management of wildlife species in NMR, including those related to the polar bear.
Several regulations stemming from this law structure activities that involve the polar bear:
Adopted by the Gouvernement du Québec in 1983, the object of the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife (Chapter C-61.1) is the conservation of wildlife and its habitat, their development in keeping with the principle of sustainable development, and the recognition of every person’s right to hunt, fish and trap in accordance with the law. To that end, the Act establishes various prohibitions that relate to the conservation of wildlife resources and various standards of safety, and sets forth the rights and obligations of hunters, fishers and trappers.
Establishes the conditions for possession and export outside of Québec of an undressed polar bear pelt from Québec, to which a tag provided by the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) must be attached.
Requires that a wounded or dead polar bear must be declared to a wildlife protection officer.
- Act respecting hunting and fishing rights in the James Bay and New Québec territories (Chapter D-13.1)
The Gouvernement du Québec adopted this law in 1989 to implement Chapter 24 of the JBNQA. The Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Regime created by this law is subject to conservation principles as defined in the JBNQA.
This law specifies that guided hunting of the polar bear is prohibited and its harvesting is reserved exclusively to beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA).
When a provision of the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife (Chapter C-61.1) is incompatible with a provision of the Act respecting hunting and fishing rights in the James Bay and New Québec territories (Chapter D-13.1), the latter prevails.
Aware of the problem of decline in Québec’s biological diversity and seeking to counter its causes, in 1989 the Gouvernement du Québec adopted the Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species (Chapter E-12.01).
Under this law, plants and animals can receive one of two designations:
Vulnerable status: used to designate a species, subspecies or population whose survival is judged to be precarious, although its extirpation is not expected in the short- or medium-term.
Threatened status: used to designate a species, subspecies or population whose extirpation is expected.
The Act has the following objectives:
- To prevent the extirpation of species living in Québec;
- To avoid a reduction in the population numbers of an animal or plant species designated as threatened or vulnerable;
- To ensure the conservation of habitats of species designated as threatened or vulnerable;
- To restore populations and habitats of species designated as threatened or vulnerable;
- To prevent any species from becoming threatened or vulnerable.
In 2009, the polar bear was designated as a vulnerable species. When an animal species is designated as threatened or vulnerable, its management and the protection of its habitats fall under the aegis of the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife (Chapter C-61.1).
Survival of vulnerable species is not threatened in the short- or medium-term, but it could become so if no measures are taken to reverse the factors affecting them. Taking into account the degree of risk, some species, in particular those registered as vulnerable, may be subject to closely controlled exploitation when it is possible to demonstrate that this will have no impact on the current status of their population and if all possible measures are taken for their recovery.
In northern Québec, provisions related to threatened and vulnerable species (e.g. the polar bear) are also subject to the provisions of the Act respecting hunting and fishing rights in the James Bay and New Québec territories (Chapter D-13.1).