SCO supports moose harvest plan

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The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) has come out in support of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) in its decision to conduct a limited moose harvest in areas where conservation efforts have seen an increase in population.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2020 (787 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) has come out in support of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) in its decision to conduct a limited moose harvest in areas where conservation efforts have seen an increase in population.

Earlier this week, the MMF announced it would issue 24 tags — slightly more than one-third of the 60 moose current population numbers indicate could be sustainably harvested at Duck Mountain and Porcupine Mountain game hunting areas.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation is outraged, according to a public post on its website, and the province said Wednesday it has its own plans to organize a controlled hunt.

A cow moose and two calves dine in a marsh in Riding Mountain National Park in July. (File)

“We’re not so worried about the count. We’re worried they aren’t following provincial law,” said Chris Heald, executive director for the wildlife federation — a conservation organization representing the interests of Manitoba hunters, anglers, trappers and sport shooters.

He said the organization’s outrage is due to the MMF going ahead with a harvest without consideration for the fact that the province has the authority to manage wildlife. Heald also said there needs to be a co-management system for all wildlife, including moose. The wildlife organization recognizes Section 35 rights, but there are larger issues at stake.

“We support local Métis, local First Nations and the local licensed hunters getting first opportunity. The communities most affected by the closure should be the first ones to hunt again,” Heald said.

But gone are the days when the moose population could feed a whole community. Slow government response to degrading populations and natural forces — climate change, ticks, brain worm (parelaphostrongylus tenuis), wolves, black bears, habitat issues and slow provincial response — have contributed to low moose populations. And, while the populations in the contested hunting areas are stable, they are half of what they used to be, Heald said.

“I’ve seen pictures this week — it’s just disgusting. I talked to a biologist, who picked up a collared moose … Had so many ticks … They just die of starvation. It’s just so sad to watch. They never had to deal with that before,” he said.

“And the brain worm. As the deer move, into (game hunting area) 26 especially, they carry brain worms. It doesn’t affect the deer, but the moose pick it up and it’s fatal to a moose.”

MMF president David Chartrand told The Brandon Sun a former wildlife federation representative is an official with the province’s department of Agriculture and Resource Development, which has created bias. He also maintained that if licensed hunters want rights, they should go to the Supreme Court of Canada, like the Métis did. He said there hasn’t been consultation, though Heald said there had been.

“There’s never been a consultation to develop a strategy,” Chartrand insisted, adding a letter to “share your ideas” does not equal consultation.

Heald told the Sun the wildlife organization respects everybody’s rights, and a co-management arrangement would accomplish the goal of meeting everyone’s rights.

“The government committed to it. They give us a commitment that they would fund the shared management. They give us that commitment. So it’s just a matter of getting the process going. We’ve had initial talks with a third party. It’s just a matter of getting everybody together. But with COVID, it just didn’t happen,” he said.

“It’s solvable. It’s just to get everybody to agree to come to the table.”

But Chartrand said in response to provincial government efforts to establish a fall 2020 hunt, that the province is misleading the public.

“What they’re not telling the public is that they’re doing it on the premise to appease their voters, appease their supporters. They’re saying to the First Nations and Métis, ‘We will let you hunt there. You can take 20, you can take 20, but the non-Indigenous can take 20,’” Chartrand said.

“That’s not how the law works. What the province is really doing is they are trampling on the rights of Indigenous people, on Section 35. They’re saying, ‘In order for us to let you harvest there, you’ve got to allow non-Indigenous harvesters have the same rights as you.’ That cant be.”

In its statement on the Internet, the wildlife organization said, “whether we are licensed, Métis or First Nations hunters, we are all in the same boat — we hunt to fill our freezers and support our families.”

In conversation with the Sun, Heald said that the available moose can be shared, even if the numbers go 40 for First Nations, 20 for Métis and a few for non-Indigenous licensed hunters.

“The licensed guys aren’t asking to have the equal opportunity, but they’re saying we need to be co-operative,” Heald said.

SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, in his Thursday news release, stated, “It sets a dangerous precedent when the province thinks they have the authority to pick and choose which First Nations’ treaty rights they respect and which they ignore when it comes to harvesting.”

The SCO wants to co-host a meeting with the MMF to discuss hunting rights and responsibilities. It is calling for an Indigenous hunting, fishing and conservation authority.

It also maintains the province has yet to meaningfully consult with southern Manitoba First Nations about moose.

“First Nation peoples have been involved in the protection and sustainable harvesting of these lands and natural resources for thousands of years,” Daniels said.

“Indigenous rights are enshrined in the foundation of this country via Section 35 of the Constitution Act. The province of Manitoba cannot create their own processes for determining the harvesting eligibility of communities whose rights are federally protected. First Nations have already taken this issue to the Supreme Court of Canada on numerous occasions, and we have had our harvesting rights reaffirmed in cases such as R v. Sparrow.”

That case determined Indigenous rights have a different nature than non-Indigenous rights.

But Heald stands by what he says — that everyone in Manitoba is subject to Manitoba laws and processes, including facing the consequences of hunting in a closed area.

“We certainly hope that the (Manitoba) Metis Federation will give second thought to this course of action. If they proceed with allocating moose tags to Métis harvesters in these closure areas, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation will stand up for the moose and will advocate the province to prosecute anyone that breaks the conservation closure laws. This applies to licensed and rights-based harvesters alike,” the wildlife organization publicly stated.

» mletourneau@brandonsun.com

» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.

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