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This article was published 14/11/2016 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is considering a legal challenge to laws that prevent aboriginal people from hunting on private land, just as Manitoba landowners are seeking greater enforcement against hunters.
The AMC maintains two aboriginal hunters from Manitoba should not have been charged for hunting and killing a moose on private property in Saskatchewan last year. The two men, from Pine Creek First Nation in western Manitoba, recently pleaded guilty and were fined $15,000.
"The settler community needs to understand the limits of notions of private property in treaty lands," Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said in a prepared statement.
While the AMC is considering challenging property-ownership laws in Saskatchewan, similar laws exist in Manitoba.
'The settler community needs to understand the limits of notions of private property in treaty lands' ‐ Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
The AMC statement comes days after landowners met in Souris in southwestern Manitoba to organize against increased hunting on private property. The group says night hunting on private land is on the rise, to the detriment of wildlife, particularly moose. And the moose population is suffering.
Local wildlife groups are opposed to both night hunting and hunting on private land without permission. Night hunting is within an aboriginal person’s treaty rights but not on private land as the law currently interprets treaty rights.
Night hunting sees hunters use spotlights to shoot wild game after dark. Hunters drive along rural roads, and the animals freeze when the spotlight shines on them. Hunters are often able to make multiple killings in a single stop.
Dale McBurney, president of the Hartney Game and Fish Association, said hunting on private land endangers not only the hunters but the lives of people living on the land and their property.
"I’m a hunter-safety instructor. (Night hunting) goes against everything we teach kids: know what’s in the background, know what you’re shooting at, all those things," said McBurney.
However, the AMC believes the indigenous right to harvest wildlife trumps land-ownership rights.
"The concept of private property is limited by Crown obligations not only to pay taxes on the lands under title, but also to not interfere with indigenous treaty hunters in the carrying out of their vocation of hunting safely. This is guaranteed by treaty," Nepinak said.
"The provincial judicial-systems actions of intimidating and threatening individuals in the exercise of collective treaty-based rights is unjust and needs to be challenged to the fullest extent of available options due to the detrimental impacts upon indigenous culture, physical health and access to ancestral lands."
With regard to night hunting, the AMC refused to condemn it. AMC political liaison Dennis Whitebird would only say indigenous customs have been displaced by federal and provincial jurisdiction.
McBurney predicted moose will be extinct in southwestern Manitoba within three years without drastic changes.
McBurney, a commercial pilot, has been conducting aerial surveys of the moose population in southwestern Manitoba since 1982.
McBurney estimates the moose population has dropped by 50 per cent in the past year in the southwest. In the Turtle Mountain area, the numbers have dropped from 248 moose to just 18 in six years, he said.
A total of 35 charges for night hunting and dangerous hunting have been laid so far this year in Manitoba, with a number of weapons and 11 vehicles seized. Conservation officers seized an average of five vehicles and charged 14 persons per year in the previous nine years.
"The Province of Manitoba shares the concerns of all Manitobans regarding the dangers of unsafe and unsustainable hunting and the decline in the province’s moose population," Minister of Sustainable Development Cathy Cox said in a prepared statement.
Other provinces have found ways to ban or curtail night hunting. In Saskatchewan, a line has been drawn across the province, with night hunting banned south of the line.
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