Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Métis hunting rights recognized

Province, MMF to ink agreement ending a decade of bitter conflict

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The Selinger government will formally ink a deal today with Manitoba's Métis on giving them the same hunting rights as aboriginals.

Premier Greg Selinger and Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand are to sign the agreement in Brandon during the MMF's annual general assembly.

The agreement ends almost a decade of bad blood between the MMF and the province and means Métis people can hunt and fish without a provincial licence, but only in certain regions of the province for now.

"This is the most advanced recognition of our inherent harvesting rights anywhere in Canada," Chartrand said Friday. "What's happening is one of the most far-reaching historic advancements in over a century, since our time as a people governing ourselves in the West."

First Nations people had the right in Canadian law to hunt, trap and fish for food at all seasons of the year since 1930.

Talks between the province and the MMF, which represents an estimated 100,000 Métis, started in earnest in June after Chartrand and Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh met at a Manitoba Wildlife Federation meeting.

Mackintosh said Friday as long as Métis rights are reasonably accommodated under the province's conservation rules -- the ban on moose hunting in some areas has to be respected -- there's no reason the Métis and province can't work together.

"It's one more step in addressing outstanding aboriginal concerns in this province," Mackintosh said.

Chartrand said the Métis have been pushing for their own hunting rights since 2003 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in a case called the Powley decision, that a group of Métis in the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., region had a constitutionally protected aboriginal right to harvest food for domestic purposes in the region.

Then-premier Gary Doer later said his government respected the rights of the Métis as they were outlined by the Supreme Court.

However, talks between the province and the MMF were derailed after Métis hunter Will Goodon was charged with failing to have a migrating-game-bird hunting licence when he shot a duck near the Turtle Mountains and took it to a local conservation officer.

Goodon had a Métis harvester card, recently issued to him by the MMF to identify Métis people through a genealogical search, but not a provincial hunting licence.

At the time, Chartrand threatened to stage a modern-day reprise of the Riel rebellion to protest the charge.

Chartrand said then that the MMF had reached an oral agreement with the province to recognize the harvester cards, but the province denied there was any such agreement. Chartrand called for then-conservation minister Stan Struthers to resign and said Doer had deceived him.

A provincial court judge threw out the charge against Goodon in 2009.

The issue festered since then, although the MMF and Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF), which represents 14,000 anglers and hunters, signed a pact in 2010 to work together on fish and wildlife conservation and co-operate on education and safety programs.

MWF president Reid Woods said Friday his organization supports Métis hunting rights.

"They want a sustainable resource for now and future generations," Woods said. "I think what they're put together is very prudent."

Chartrand said the Métis hunters and fishers will follow what's called the Metis laws of the hunt, which put wildlife conservation first, such as not fishing pickerel when they're spawning.

"We have seasons. We have limits," Chartrand said.

"Our laws are probably more restrictive than provincial laws. What we're doing is making sure our traditional foods that we've always enjoyed, and still have the power to enjoy, are going to be protected for years to come."

Mackintosh said the deal also means charges of hunting without a provincial licence against about 30 Métis hunters will be stayed by the courts as early as next week.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 A4

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