Chiefs who represent southern First Nations have joined the battle over a moose hunt in western Manitoba this fall, in which the Métis and provincial government are already feuding.
The Southern Chiefs Organization is calling "bull" on the provincial government’s approach to reopen moose hunting, which they say infringes on their constitutional rights and was done without proper consultation.
The province announced Wednesday it is in the process of contacting "eligible" communities and organizations to participate in a limited hunt. It made that move after the Manitoba Metis Federation announced Tuesday that it believed the moose population had bounced back in the Porcupine Mountain, Nopiming and Duck Mountain areas, and that Métis hunters could shoot moose to provide for their families as of Oct. 1.
The province denounced the Métis federation’s "unilateral" decision to restart the traditional practice. The province said the federation lacks legislative authority, enforcement mechanisms, or proper consultation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters.
That upset the southern chiefs. On Thursday, Grand Chief Jerry Daniels took the provincial government to task, saying its actions set a "dangerous precedent" in terms of treaty rights.
"Indigenous rights are enshrined in the foundation of this country via Section 35 of the Constitution Act," Daniels said in a release. "The province of Manitoba cannot create their own processes for determining the harvesting eligibility of communities whose rights are federally protected."
The SCO said the province cannot "unilaterally decide when they can reopen at-risk moose-hunting areas or who they will consult with beforehand," the southern chiefs said.
The chiefs want a reopening plan that is co-developed between First Nations, the Métis, and the province, Daniels said.
They also want the establishment of an Indigenous hunting, fishing and conservation authority.
The chiefs organization, which represents 34 First Nations, said it will seek a meeting with the Métis federation over its plan.
In 2011, all parties agreed hunting in those areas should end to allow the moose population to increase.