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 with Rob Miskosky

It's Signed! Métis Harvesting is on.

It’s final. The NDP Government of Alberta has signed a new Métis Harvesting Agreement and Policy with the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA). An agreement that many outdoorsmen and women vehemently opposed way back in 2005 when the then Klein Government signed off on the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement (IMHA) that riled so many and gave unfettered hunting and fishing rights to thousands that didn’t need those rights.

Many petitions were signed against the IMHA and the bluster was large, so large that politicians were taken aback, the IMHA died a slow death, and a 2010 policy was put in place that everybody was happy with, excluding the MNA of course.

As with most things done without proper public consultation by our current government (read Bighorn Backcountry and others), this new Agreement follows suit.

According to a press release issued by the MNA, “The new Métis Harvesting in Alberta Policy replaces the 2010 policy and recognizes the rights of eligible MNA citizens to hunt, fish, and trap for food in five large regional Métis Harvesting Areas in central and northern Alberta (as opposed to the much smaller 25 local Métis harvesting areas provided for in the 2010 policy).”

Those “five large” areas encompass nearly the entirety of Alberta, from south of Red Deer to the NWT border. All that’s missing is much of southern Alberta; however, the “Recognition of Métis harvesting rights in southern Alberta” have been tabled for further discussion, according to the Agreement.

The biggest bone of contention last time around was just who was eligible for Métis harvesting rights? Of course, with the IMHA, just about anybody qualified if he or she were a member of the MNA. Has this changed with the new policy? Well, let’s examine what qualifications are required to hunt, fish and trap for food year round.

According to the new policy, “In order to be compliant with existing case law, and establish that a person has potential Powley rights to harvest for subsistence (food) in one of the four Métis Harvesting Areas in Alberta, applicants must meet three requirements:

1.Self-identify as Métis and state for how long they have self-identified, by:
● Membership in the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), or
● Membership to a Métis Settlement or a Métis settlement card, or
● A statutory declaration confirming self-identification.

 Show an ancestral connection to the Métis Harvesting Area in Alberta they are applying for. This can be shown by:
● Genealogical history, including where ancestors lived and when they lived there. Applicants must show a pre-1900 connection to the Métis Harvesting Area where they are applying.

Show a contemporary connection to the same Métis Harvesting Area by:
● Showing a current address in the Métis Harvesting Area or describing your acceptance by and involvement in the Métis Harvesting Area.

At first glance, it appears this Agreement has more teeth than previous agreements and that it might not be that easy to harvest that bighorn sheep you’ve had your eye on at a time when they are vulnerable.

According to the Agreement, under section 3, 3.1 “During the term of this Agreement, the MNA shall maintain full, accurate, and complete records of Métis Harvesters and the process used to determine eligibility.” 3.2 “The records kept by the MNA regarding Métis Harvesters and the process used to determine eligibility will remain in the exclusive custody and control of the MNA.” 3.3 “The MNA shall produce an annual report the purpose of which will be to verify that its list of Métis Harvesters and its process to determine eligibility accords with this Agreement.”
The MNA and the province are also required to “establish an Implementation Committee” that will oversee several matters including the “Identification of Métis Harvesters.”

However, there are still a few items that have been “tabled for further discussions” that will most likely not sit well with Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women, especially “commercial harvesting”. As it stands now, a Métis Harvester can use “one gill net of no more than 95 metres in length, and of a specified mesh size at specified waters” to catch fish for food. If a commercial aspect is added later on, this could cause serious problems for some fisheries. The commercial harvest of fish in Alberta was permanently shut down in 2014. And the sale of wildlife, including parts such as meat, trophy heads, antlers, horns, or skins, is prohibited. With some exceptions where skins are concerned. Will this change for Métis Harvesters?

Another concern could come from the taxpayer. According to the Agreement, “Alberta agrees to seek authority to provide funds to the MNA to support its institutional capacity and participation in the process established by this Agreement”.

Sometimes you get your cake and eat it too!

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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