Manitoba Métis Federation takes provincial gov't to court over moose hunt restrictions

·3 min read

The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) announced Friday it is taking the province to court to fight for the rights of Métis hunters and harvesters, and MMF’s president said they will defend their citizens in this fight no matter how long it takes, or how much it costs.

“This may cost over a million dollars, but we are willing to spend what is necessary to protect our harvesters and to protect our people,” MMF president David Chartrand said on Friday.

Chartrand joined 82-year-old Métis citizen George Lavallee during a Friday press conference in Winnipeg to announce that MMF is taking the Manitoba Government to court, and Chartrand said the lawsuit was filed to fight for Métis citizens’ Section 35 rights, and for the rights of Métis hunters to hunt moose in the Duck and Porcupine Mountain areas of western Manitoba.

According to MMF, during a recent incident Lavallee, a Métis elder and harvester, was “harassed” by RCMP officers while moose hunting in that area of western Manitoba.

“When an 82-year-old elder calls me and says he is crying because of how badly he was treated, well then I will go to war for my people,” Chartrand said during a fiery press conference on Friday.

“That is something that I will not accept, so this government better be prepared. What they forgot to take into consideration is that the Manitoba Métis Federation will never allow that to happen to their people.”

According to MMF, a second incident in the area that saw hunters detained by RCMP was also reported to him recently, but those hunters did not want to come forward or reveal their names.

In 2011, Manitoba banned moose harvesting in the Duck and Porcupine Mountain areas, as well as in sections of Turtle Mountain and the north Interlake, with the province saying the restrictions were put in place to preserve the moose population in those areas.

Last October however, MMF said they would permit limited moose hunting for Métis harvesters, putting them at odds with the provincial restrictions.

Chartrand said the MMF has the right to issue limited licenses for moose hunting under Section 35 of the Canadian constitution which recognizes “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada” and includes “the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.”

According to Chartrand the moose population is currently not in danger of extinction in the areas where hunting is currently banned from the province.

“Let’s make sure that Manitobans understand this, there is no chance of extinction of the moose population in the Ducks and the Porcupines area,” Chartrand said.

Chartrand also made it clear he believes the facts are on MMF’s side to win the case, and that they will take this as far as they have to in order to get a verdict in their favour.

“We will take this all the way to the Supreme Court (of Canada),” Chartrand said. “There is no way in hell we will let anybody abuse the law, and abuse the constitution, and try to take away our rights.”

In a statement the province responded to news of MMF’s legal challenge.

“To protect our threatened moose population and allow it to recover, hunting in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains has been closed since 2011. The closure was implemented after extensive consultations with Indigenous communities. Since that time, the moose population has started to recover but it remains at risk,” a provincial spokesperson said.

“Despite the availability of interim harvesting opportunities for Indigenous communities, the MMF has proceeded unilaterally by issuing its own hunting tags, recognizing that this could lead to charges for illegally killed moose. Conservation officers have responsibilities to appropriately investigate and enforce the moose conservation closure, and ask for the assistance of local RCMP where required.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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