The Alberta government and the Métis Nation of Alberta have reached a new agreement that has expanded the harvesting area for Métis people in the province.
The province is now divided into five regional sections, instead of the previous 25 local harvesting areas. Harvesters in the northern and central regions will be able to hunt, fish and trap. But the fifth region, the south, is not yet part of the policy.
"Our people basically have been charged whenever they go out hunting, and that's wrong," said Métis Nation president Audrey Poitras. "Just as all Indigenous people, we have our rights and what this harvesting [policy] does is get [us] closer to being fully recognized."
Poitras said this policy change will give members access to about 75 to 80 per cent of the province.
There are three stipulations for people who would like to hunt in one of the province's four eligible regions:
- The person must self-identify as Métis.
- The person must have an ancestral connection to the region from before 1900.
- The person must have a current connection to the harvesting area.
The Métis Nation will give eligible applicants a harvester identification sticker, which is valid for the life of the citizen.
For Amber Paquette, a Métis mother living in Edmonton, this new policy is exciting.
"My family in particular participated in a hunting lifestyle … up until my own grandmother," Paquette said.
"It's a really big deal to be able to have access to that again."
She said there are barriers for many people who would like to hunt, such as the cost of licences and hunting tags, and the limitations on hunting grounds.
Paquette is learning how to hunt, and she said one day she would like to pass that skill on to her two sons.
Concerns over conservation
Not everyone is happy with the new policy.
Alberta Fish and Game Association president Brian Dingreville said on Thursday he's concerned about the policy opening up the environment to too much harvesting, which will "lead to a lack of our natural resource[s]."
Unless there are specific conservation limitations on hunting, Métis harvesters will be allowed to hunt year-round.
"Giving anyone the right to harvest unlimited animals including fish year-round could have disastrous consequences," the association said in a news release on Wednesday.
Jordan Reves, 33, is a Métis subsistence hunter who has been hunting since he was five years old.
He said the policy is a good step forward. And he would like to see the Métis Nation introduce a hunting education course. "If [people] are going to kill something, they need to be able to know how to not waste and how to do it, because otherwise it's a waste."
Reves said he's eaten lynx because it got caught on his trap line. "I think that's what we need to remember: if you're going to be harvesting, you need to respect and use it the proper way and not over-take."
People will be able to apply for the identification sticker on or before Sept. 1, 2019.