By Michele LeTourneau
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
BRANDON, MANITOBA-The Manitoba Metis Federation is moving ahead with a very controlled and limited bull-moose hunt, citing Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and the Metis right to harvest.
Since 2011, Metis hunters have not been able to hunt moose due to their low population. As MMF president David Chartrand stated in a news release, it was in consultation with elders that the federation agreed to a moratorium as part of conservation efforts.
“There was enough information put out by the government in regards to Duck Mountain (game hunting areas 13 and 13A) and Porcupine (18, 18A, 18B, 18C). We were able to make a very a good decision on whether to harvest or not and how many to harvest based on those numbers,” said the federation’s minister of natural resources, Leah LaPlante.
“Turtle Mountain (29 and 29A), on the other hand, did not have enough of the provincial government information for us to make an assessment on that and still be very conservation-minded. So it’s out for this year.”
Game hunting area 26 Nopiming, closed to moose hunting by the federation, will now be reopened.
Game hunting areas that remain closed along with Turtle Mountain are 12, 14, 14A, 19A, 21, 21A.
In a 2018 letter to the federation and at town halls, the provincial government stated their surveys showed that the moose populations in Porcupine Mountain and Duck Mountain areas were stable, which meant two per cent of the population, or 60 animals, could be harvested.
But the federation has chosen to provide only 16 tags to Metis harvesters in the Duck Mountain game hunting area and eight tags in the Porcupine Mountain area _ for a total of 24. The hunt will be carried out by parties with a minimum of four hunters, who need to apply for a unique conservation moose tag, to be issued to the captain of the hunt for each party. The captain is then required to return the tag and report on the hunt.
“As the president made very clear, they’re not going in as an individual harvester. It will also be their (captain’s) responsibility to make sure that in their community, the elders, as much as possible, are given meat, and families, single moms or single dads,” LaPlante said.
The federation plans on conducting its own aerial surveys over the areas that remain closed. The idea is to use the numbers from all monitoring to fully assess the situation. LaPlante said harvesters in the Turtle Mountain area are reporting moose are making a comeback.
On this file, as with many others, the federation and the province are not meeting. The federation states that, since the hunting moratorium, there is no record of consultation on this matter, despite a 2019 federation letter requesting such.
“The Metis Government and the Metis laws of the harvest place a priority on conservation-minded harvesting. The MMF is seeking a cooperative approach with the province of Manitoba in these conservation efforts,” Chartrand stated.
“We are going to be engaging with First Nations leadership to come to an agreement on how First Nations and Metis harvesters will move forward on moose harvesting and sharing in a fair and equitable manner and will further engage with other stakeholders.”
LaPlante said that in 2011, the agreement was to discuss the moratorium in five years time. That never happened.
“Our people in the Ducks and the Porcupines that harvest in that area haven’t been able to have moose meat for 10 years. Our tradition of harvesting and sharing is important to us, because that’s how we all survived,” LaPlante said.
“We had elders in our communities, two elders who lived alone, who couldn’t harvest. There was always someone who harvested for them and took it to them to them, cleaned up and ready for the frying pan. It’s just a part of who we are. As much we can live in both worlds, our preference is to live the way we always lived, when it comes to what we eat and our practices in our community.”
The entire federation cabinet discussed two options _ to stick with the province’s 10-year-old decision or to plan a small harvest.
“I think we’re doing it the right way and I’m fully supportive of this as the minister,” LaPlante said, adding it is a conservation-minded and community-minded decision.
“And our people are happy. They’re happy someone is going to have a chance to harvest and to bring some moose meat back into the community.”
The development of tags and the detailed process should be completed by the end of this week or early next week.
So far, a co-management system does not exist, and LaPlante said the federation wants to work on that with **>First Nations<** and the province.
“I want my children and grandchildren to be able to have traditional foods the same way we did, and I want non-Indigenous people, too,” she said.
“But, this year, this decision was important to us, to our community, especially our elders who are waiting to have some meat in their freezer.”
LaPlante stressed, also, that during the pandemic the ability to feed themselves may have been a tipping factor for Metis.
Metis harvesters will have until Jan. 15 to use the moose tags, at which time big game hunting will shut down for the season.
The province did not comment on the federation’s decision by deadline
Michele LeTourneau is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brandon Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.