WINNIPEG _ Some First Nations chiefs are criticizing a plan by the Manitoba government to ban hunting with spotlights at night.
Premier Brian Pallister told 800 Progressive Conservatives at a party fundraiser Thursday that the province will end “the inhumane practice.” He received loud applause from the audience.
The proposed ban concerns some Indigenous organizations.
“We are dismayed at the government’s decision to proceed without due regard to its constitutional obligations to consult,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization said in a news release Friday.
“We have been adamant that the issue between the government and First Nations is not a lack of regard for the safety of Manitobans.”
Instead, he said they’re concerned a blanket prohibition would infringe on Indigenous and treaty rights.
Minister of Sustainable Development Rochelle Squires said the government has consulted widely.
“Our government views public safety as certainly a top-of-mind issue,” she said. “We have had a broad engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities and the community at large in relation to curtailing unsafe hunting practices.
“We found broad agreement amongst many, many people who want to see the end of unsafe hunting practices and our government is happy to deliver on that.”
Daniels has been in her office on numerous occasions, she said.
“I respectfully disagree with him when he states we have not conducted broad consultation,” said Squires. “We understand our constitutional responsibility and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
She said the government will introduce the legislation, which will reflect advice given by Indigenous communities and constitutional experts, on Wednesday.
Pallister stirred up anger last year when he said the issue was becoming a race war _ something he wanted to avoid.
“Young, Indigenous guys going out and shooting a bunch of moose because they can, because they say it’s their right, doesn’t make any sense … to me,” Pallister told a few dozen party members in January 2017 in Virden, Man.
Spotlight hunting involves the use of bright lights to help hunters see moose, deer and other animals.
Two men have been killed in recent years in night hunting accidents and livestock and buildings have inadvertently been hit by bullets travelling well beyond the reach of a spotlight.
Some Indigenous leaders contend they have the right to hunt at night and said Pallister’s words at the time were hurtful and divisive.
But there has been support in some quarters for restrictions.
Last fall, the Manitoba Metis Federation adopted a ban on spotlight hunting around developed areas of southern Manitoba.
“The northern part, where it’s isolated and where people still use traditional methods of calling out big game, they would … hunt in a sitting position not a travelling position,” said David Chartrand, president of the federation. “They agreed that would be an ongoing practice.
“They would no longer utilize trucks or Ski-Doos or quads.”
Chartrand said they were supposed to have a meeting with the province after the federation adopted its ban.
“We haven’t had a meeting since,” he said. “We thought they would embrace us with open arms.
“If they want to do it right and in a very co-operative way, you would think they would call us together.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has said the organization won’t comment until the government releases details of its plan.
_ By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton. With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg