NDP says Liberal gun legislation won’t affect Indigenous hunters

An NDP MP says Conservative accusations his party is abandoning Indigenous hunters by supporting a revamped government gun law are simply false.

“We have a much better bill moving forward and it’s a bill that targets criminals now and manufacturers and importers and upholds Indigenous rights,” Vancouver MP Peter Julian told Nation to Nation. “That’s the bill I think most people can get around and that’s why I think the NDP has been the adult in the room through this whole process.”

Julian sits on the public security and national safety committee and when the Liberals proposed amendments to Bill C-21 late last year that would have banned a wide range of semi-automatic weapons, both the NDP and Bloc Québécois spoke out.

Along with the Conservatives, the parties said the sweeping changes would negatively affect a number of law-abiding gun owners including Indigenous hunters.

The Liberals have since withdrawn these amendments and introduced a significantly changed bill.

The proposed law will not affect existing gun owners, a special firearms committee will be appointed to determine the list of semi-automatic guns that will be banned and Section 35 Indigenous hunting rights have been added to the legislation.

“Part of the problem with the amendments that were tabled at the end of last year is the fact there was no consultation with Indigenous groups at all,” Julian said. “The Liberals threw them out without consulting and we’ve said to them moving forward you need to have people from Indigenous communities around the table so that any discussions around classification is done with full consultation.”

MNO versus First Nations

The president of the Métis Nation of Ontario says she is disappointed in the negative reaction a new self-government agreement with Ottawa is generating from some First Nations.

“Our agreement is about protecting our children, it’s about protecting our families, it’s about governing ourselves,” Margaret Froh explained to Nation to Nation. “It doesn’t impact on any other people. I don’t understand why anyone would want to oppose us over how we take care of our children. So, I do find that very troubling and we absolutely do believe as Métis we have no role in how First Nations govern themselves and likewise they should have no role in how we govern ourselves.”

Nevertheless, this has not prevented a number of First Nations in Ontario from launching lawsuits against the federal government regarding the agreement saying it has the potential to infringe on their inherent treaty rights.

Froh said the self-government agreement does not contain any land or harvesting rights.

However, a press release issued by the MNO on Feb. 24 when the agreement was signed with Ottawa and Ontario says, “…the Agreement commits the parties to ongoing negotiations towards a core self-government treaty within the next two years.”

Lastly, more than 350 people were in Ottawa this week for the First Nations National Guardians Gathering.

The guardians are trained experts who care for lands and waters on behalf of their First Nations communities.

There are now 120 First Nations Guardians programs operating across the across the country, up from 30 programs five years ago.

Frank Brown is a hereditary chief of the Heiltsuk Nation in B.C. and an adjunct professor in resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University.

He is also a senior advisor with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative which was part of the guardians’ Ottawa gathering.

Brown told Nation to Nation it is not surprising that Indigenous people are getting more and more involved in environmental movements.

“It’s the Native people of this land that are the ones feeling the direct impacts of climate change from coast to coast to coast in the north and the Atlantic,” he said. “I come from the Pacific coast and we’re dealing with ocean acidification and the oceans warming and how it impacts us is the effect on fish.”

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