By Derek Montague
TC Media — LABRADOR
A Single Otter airplane landed on the shore in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu early Thursday evening, dropping off a load of hunted caribou.
The plane brought out a large crowd from the community. People came out in their cars and snowmobiles, almost completely blocking the road along the shoreline in Sheshatshiu.
“A Ski-Doo came off the ice and went on past me, with one caribou in the komatik,” said one witness.
Not long after the plane left, Big Land Aviation co-owners Albert Michelin and Clarence Froude were made aware that their Turbo Single Otter airplane had been seized.
“I got a call from the (RCMP) hangar … saying it was seized,” said Froude. “He asked me how to put (the plane) in the hangar.”
Provincial Justice Minister Darin King confirmed the seizure of an aircraft in an email to The Labradorian.
“I can confirm that a plane has been temporarily seized as part of an investigation into alleged illegal hunting activity in Labrador. While no charges have been laid at this point, the investigation is continuing and I will not be commenting further right now,” said King.
Innu Nation Grand Chief Prote Poker has claimed the delivery of caribou was organized by the Innu Nation and the Sheshatshiu Band Council and there were nine caribou aboard the plane. All were hunted in Shipiskan Lake, an area located 185 km northwest of Goose Bay.
According to Poker, about 30 animals were killed. It is unknown if there are other carcasses beyond the nine confiscated that have yet to be picked up.
As far as Poker knows, no Innu hunters were placed in custody, upon the seizure of the plane. He believes no hunters were aboard the plane when the drop off took place in Sheshatshiu, just the Big Land Aviation pilots.
Neither Froude nor Michelin could confirm or deny if caribou was aboard their plane. Both insist their company did nothing wrong.
“Our plane is chartered every day,” says Froude. “I don’t question anybody (on what they’ll use the plane for) … it’s none of my business.”
“Our pilots don’t fish, they don’t hunt, they don’t partake (in the client’s activities),” said Michelin. “I’m going to be contacting lawyers and I will sue the government to recoup any losses, if necessary.”
Michelin, an Innu who was an RCMP officer for 18 years in Labrador before moving to New Brunswick, says that the turbo otter is the only plane that the company has in Labrador. The company has another plane that operates out of Ontario.
Michelin believes the provincial government has singled out him and Big Land Aviation unfairly. He claims one of his competitors helped the Innu locate the caribou by flying to Shipiskan Lake prior to his plane being chartered.
Sources have told The Labradorian an emergency meeting between Innu Leaders took place Friday afternoon. Details of the meeting have yet to be revealed.