Metis Hunting Rights Recognized

Article excerpt

Province, MMF to ink agreement ending a decade of bitter conflict

The Selinger government will formally ink a deal today with Manitoba's Metis on giving them the same hunting rights as aboriginals.

Premier Greg Selinger and Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand are to sign the agreement in Brandon during the MMF's annual general assembly.

The agreement ends almost a decade of bad blood between the MMF and the province and means Metis people can hunt and fish without a provincial licence, but only in certain regions of the province for now.

"This is the most advanced recognition of our inherent harvesting rights anywhere in Canada," Chartrand said Friday. "What's happening is one of the most far-reaching historic advancements in over a century, since our time as a people governing ourselves in the West."

First Nations people had the right in Canadian law to hunt, trap and fish for food at all seasons of the year since 1930.

Talks between the province and the MMF, which represents an estimated 100,000 Metis, started in earnest in June after Chartrand and Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh met at a Manitoba Wildlife Federation meeting.

Mackintosh said Friday as long as Metis rights are reasonably accommodated under the province's conservation rules -- the ban on moose hunting in some areas has to be respected -- there's no reason the Metis and province can't work together.

"It's one more step in addressing outstanding aboriginal concerns in this province," Mackintosh said.

Chartrand said the Metis have been pushing for their own hunting rights since 2003 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in a case called the Powley decision, that a group of Metis in the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., region had a constitutionally protected aboriginal right to harvest food for domestic purposes in the region.

Then-premier Gary Doer later said his government respected the rights of the Metis as they were outlined by the Supreme Court.

However, talks between the province and the MMF were derailed after Metis hunter Will Goodon was charged with failing to have a migrating-game-bird hunting licence when he shot a duck near the Turtle Mountains and took it to a local conservation officer.

Goodon had a Metis harvester card, recently issued to him by the MMF to identify Metis people through a genealogical search, but not a provincial hunting licence.

At the time, Chartrand threatened to stage a modern-day reprise of the Riel rebellion to protest the charge.

Chartrand said then that the MMF had reached an oral agreement with the province to recognize the harvester cards, but the province denied there was any such agreement. Chartrand called for then-conservation minister Stan Struthers to resign and said Doer had deceived him. …