MMF, opposition leaders take aim at province over law ending moose hunt
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This article was published 09/10/2020 (902 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Enacting legislation that extends a moratorium on moose hunting and overrides Métis plans for a traditional hunt will add fuel to the fire of racial tensions in the province and result in a showdown in the courts, critics say.
The Manitoba government announced Friday it is enacting into law Bill 29 — the Wildlife Amendment Act — which it says will protect Manitoba’s struggling moose population and create “a safer and more ethical hunting environment.”
The bill, passed in 2018 but never enacted, bans night hunting and extends a moose-hunting moratorium in Porcupine Provincial Forest and Duck Mountain areas in effect since 2011 to revive the moose population.
Earlier this year, when the population appeared to be slowly increasing, a limited hunt with 60 moose tags was announced. The Manitoba Metis Federation claimed 26 of those tags for traditional hunting, citing their constitutional right to harvest, along with First Nations, who would claim 34, leaving none for non-Indigenous hunters.
On Friday, the province announced no one would be able to hunt under the legislation taking effect Saturday at midnight.
“If we don’t act, there wont be any moose,” Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen said at a news conference Friday. “There won’t be a hunt because there wont be any moose left.”
The Manitoba Wildlife Federation, which includes non-Indigenous hunters, issued a statement Friday saying it’s the responsibility of all Manitobans to help manage and protect wildlife.
“Today’s legislation should be welcomed by every Manitoban that has an interest in seeing wildlife populations protected for future generations,” the statement said.
NDP Indigenous affairs critic Ian Bushie told the legislature that Indigenous people know how to conserve wildlife.
“We know animal harvesting and moose in particular,” and Métis elders advised that it was suitable for some to be harvested in those areas, said Bushie (Keewatinook).
But, rather than consulting as promised, the province is enacting legislation that stirs animosity, he said. Bushie brought up Premier Brian Pallister’s comments three years ago about a dispute over Indigenous night hunting leading to a “race war.”
Now the province is reviving racist tropes about night hunting and “young Indigenous guys going out, shooting a bunch of moose because they say it’s their right,” Bushie said.
“This is a bill that takes a racist dog whistle and turns it into a bullhorn,” Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said, accusing the government of “disastrous” wildlife management.
The province is allowing habitat destruction and underfunding conservation efforts that would help the moose population, while signalling that Indigenous hunters are to blame, Lamont said.
NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew agreed.
“Earlier, they said we would be able have 60 moose harvested,” Kinew said. “Now it’s, ‘Nope, no one can have any moose.’ What changed?
“They want to stir up anger, they want to foment resentment but, at the end of the day, it’s to distract from the fact that they don’t want to hire enough (conservation officers) to keep each other safe while they’re doing their important job but also to do the important work of co-managing the hunt here in Manitoba.”
MMF president David Chartrand said the managed Métis moose hunt is going ahead despite the legislation’s enactment.
“They’re cancelling, but we’re moving ahead Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.; we’re holding a draw for 26 tags,” Chartrand said.
Each tag for a bull moose will go to a Métis hunting team of no less than four hunters who will share it with their community, he said.
“We have lawyers ready and three-quarters of a million (dollars) in the bank for protecting our harvesting rights,” and will go as far as the Supreme Court to defend them, he said.
Pedersen acknowledged Indigenous Manitobans’ “constitutional right to hunt and for sustenance ” but believes the MMF wants to take the issue to court.
“They want to kill more moose and that’s not good for the moose population,” he said.
The legislation includes the creation of shared management committees made up of 50 per cent Indigenous representation as well as hunters, outfitters and local landowners, said Pedersen, who called for the groups to work together.
“There’s only one moose population and what we need is one moose plan for Manitoba,” he said. “And for different groups to go off in different directions, that only comes to the detriment of the moose population.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.