(L to R) Rick Wowchuk, MLA for Swan River; Rochelle Squires, Minister of Sustainable Development; Chief Conservation Officer Jack Harrigan and Brian Kotak of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.
Indigenous hunters in the populated southern portion of Manitoba will need a permit to spotlight hunt and only be allowed to do so in certain areas and times, under the proposed Wildlife Amendment Act.
It mainly affects areas within Treaty 1, 2 and 3. Indigenous hunters in Treaty 5 are largely unaffected.
The Bill is just the first step in making changes, says the province.
Step 2 will be consultations over the summer to hammer out the details. Any changes will be decided with First Nations, the Metis, and municipalities, agriculture and wildlife groups, said Manitoba’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Rochelle Squires.
Night hunting has been contentious in areas where traditional lands are in close proximity to farmland. Incidents involving bullets into houses, fences cut in pursuit of game and gunned-down livestock prompted Premier Brian Pallister to say in 2017 that night hunting was going to cause a “race war” in some areas of the province.
He later said that was a poor choice of words and recognized night hunting was an inherent right of Indigenous people, protected under Section 35 of the Constitution.
The framework for Bill 29 – the Wildlife Amendment Act – is a result of 22 meetings throughout the province including First Nations leaders.
“We consistently heard that Indigenous people are concerned about Treaty rights while also expressing grave concern over how night hunting affects the safety of their communities as well as all Manitobans,” Squires said.
But at a press conference Wednesday, all groups had a seat at the table except the one the province vowed to work closely with.
“This government claims to have met with Indigenous leaders across the province, yet there was zero Indigenous representation today at Minister Squires press conference regarding Bill 29,” said Judy Klassen, Liberal MLA for Kewatinook.
APTN asked why there were no indigenous representatives present and Squires said they were having their own media availability on the matter.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas was not invited to the table and said later he’s hopeful the consultation meetings this summer will be productive.
“I’ve actually spoken with the premier on this issue and they’re wanting to move forward in a collaborative way,” he said.
“If this government wants to restrict night hunting it can negotiate with our First Nations or include us in comprehensive co-management of natural resources.”
Dumas said he has asked that a round table discussion facilitated by the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba be part of this summer’s consultations.
The Manitoba Metis Federation, meanwhile, says it favors changes to night-hunting and spotlighting in southern Manitoba.