Manitoba's Indigenous leaders will find out Wednesday just how far Premier Brian Pallister believes he can go to ban night hunting.
There will likely also be sport-hunting restrictions placed on moose, elk and caribou, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires hinted broadly to reporters Friday.
Squires said she'll introduce her proposed Wildlife Amendment Act (Safe Hunting and Shared Management) bill for first reading on Wednesday.
Pallister told a Conservative fundraiser Thursday night, "We're going to end the inhumane practice of using spotlights at night to kill animals."
Squires said in a scrum following her estimates hearing Friday public safety is paramount in the pending legislation.
"Ending unsafe hunting practices is a priority," the minister said. "I will offer all stakeholders a briefing on Wednesday."
Squires said her department has conducted extensive consultation and received legal advice that it has met the requirements for consultation over hunting rights set in 2006 by the Supreme Court of Canada. "I do believe we have satisfied Section 35" of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the minister said.
Squires said the proposed bill would recognize the Supreme Court's ruling Indigenous people may hunt on land on which they have the right to hunt, and to hunt safely. "Absolutely, and our legislation will be reflective of that advice. We understand our constitutional responsibilities."
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Friday that Grand Chief Arlen Dumas will not comment until the bill is tabled in the house and he has seen the contents.
Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand was skeptical Friday the Tories have done sufficient consultation to satisfy the Charter. "That remains to be seen," he said.
Chartrand said the MMF did its own consultation and concluded night hunting should be banned anywhere south of The Pas, in the interests of public safety. "We've been trying to meet with the province to map out the areas," he said.
The MMF president said he's anxious to see what's in the bill.
"Some don't believe they have to follow the government law, and that the constitution is there to protect them," said Chartrand.
Southern Chiefs' Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a news release Friday he's dismayed the province is proceeding without consultation.
"We have been adamant the issue between First Nations and government is not a lack of regard for safety of Manitobans, but a concern that any blanket prohibition will necessarily infringe upon the collective, constitutionally recognized and affirmed Aboriginal and treaty rights," Daniels said.
Squires said the province and Indigenous people to whom the government has listened are also concerned about over-hunting of moose and other species.
"We want to make sure our iconic species are here for generations. Our woodland caribou are in jeopardy, our elk are in dire circumstances," she said.
Squires said the proposed legislation could deal with sport-hunting restrictions, especially on non-Indigenous hunters who don't have a constitutional right to hunt. "Sustainability goals are certainly paramount," she said.
In her own estimates Friday morning, Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke said she has consulted widely with Indigenous people about their cultural traditions of hunting, and their strong desire for safe hunting practices.
"One thing in common, everyone agrees, safe hunting has to be a priority," Clarke said in response to questioning from New Democrat MLA Andrew Swan. "They're very concerned — there's been loss of life in their communities. They want their hunters to go out and come back at the end of the day."
Clarke said elders in the north raised fears about the effect of sport hunting on the moose population.
"Some grandmothers in the northern part of the province are concerned about the depletion of moose. It's just so important to them," Clarke said. "Potentially, there could be an impact on treaty and Aboriginal rights, but not necessarily."
Swan cited the furor that erupted last year from the premier predicting a "race war" over a potential ban on night hunting with a spotlight.
Clarke blamed the media for the controversy. As a former cabinet minister, Swan should "know very clearly how words spoken can be taken out of context. They (media) are looking for every crack they can find to discredit you," Clarke said.
Swan also pressed Clarke to disclose if geography will be a factor in determining how a ban would be implemented. That prompted estimates hearing chairwoman Sarah Guillemard, the Tory MLA for Fort Richmond, to intervene and rule the debate was getting too close to discussing the contents of the bill before it's introduced in the house.
Nick Martin is the bearded guy we keep hidden away at the back of the newsroom. He is now in his fourth decade working in daily newspapers.
Updated on Friday, May 11, 2018 at 5:15 PM CDT: Fixes minister's name in headline