Move is complicated by previous court rulings supporting Indigenous peoples’ constitutional right to hunt at night
Farmers called on the Manitoba government to ban night hunting, and the government is moving to make it so.
However, the organization representing the Indigenous bands in the farm belt says the night hunting ban and restrictions shouldn’t be imposed by government without its agreement.
“We would have liked to stand with them in the introduction of the bill … (but) I think the province wants controversy,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization.
“They want to try to divide people on this. They don’t want to see us working together.”
The provincial government has introduced enabling legislation to ban night hunting with spotlights unless it is done by permit in the right circumstances. The specifics of what would be allowed and where will not be clear until draft regulations are released.
However, it is clear the government wants to end night hunting in areas with farms, livestock and rural homes.
“Our priority here is the safety of all Manitobans,” Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said as she unveiled the legislation.
Farmers and people living in the countryside have long complained about stray bullets hitting homes, buildings and farm equipment during the night. People and livestock have been killed by night hunting.
Some wildlife populations are also in danger of disappearing with southern moose and caribou populations in peril from overhunting.
The practice of night hunting is considered dangerous and unethical in sport hunting but is protected as a constitutional right for Indigenous people, some of whom use it to provide food for their families.
The legislation is designed to lay out the framework by which night hunting will be banned in areas where people and livestock would be put at risk but allow for night hunting permits to be issued in areas where public safety is not a concern.
Keystone Agricultural Producers members passed a resolution calling for a night hunting ban, and president Dan Mazier was pleased to see the government move to address the problem.
“That would be a big step forward,” said Mazier.
“It (is about) safety for farmers and rural people.”
Night hunting is already banned in some other jurisdictions. Sask-atchewan imposed controls in 1998.
However, respecting treaty rights makes the situation complicated. The basic right of Indigenous people to hunt has been bolstered by court findings that night hunting is constitutionally protected and that governments must “consult” with Indigenous people if their use of traditional resources or territories will be affected.
Squires said she believes Indigenous people, some of who support night hunting restrictions, have been sufficiently consulted and that further consultations will occur as regulations and management are developed.
“We do not think that this is the end of the road on consultation by any stretch. This is the beginning,” said Squires.
However, Daniels said his organization wanted to be part of a “shared management regime” from the beginning and not brought in as a junior partner later in the process.
“We have an interest in ensuring the sustainability of our lands and our livestock” said Daniels.
“We’re wanting to make safety a priority, but we have to do it in the right way.”