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 with Rob Miskosky

And we wait...

When the Klein government gave the Métis people of this province the unbridled right to hunt, fish and trap on a year-round basis without control—or without knowing what would be harvested—Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women were astonished. They considered the move to be little more than a slap in the face... and in the face of conservation.

It is well known that our fish and wildlife has taken a back seat over the past several years where political decisions are made, so it wasn’t surprising that the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement (IMHA) took little or no thought into the conservation of same. It is also well known that the politicians responsible for the IMHA went way beyond what is required by those making decisions at the Supreme Court level. In fact, it is easily argued that Alberta had already fulfilled its constitutional obligation before the IMHA was ever signed off. So why then do we find ourselves in the position we are?

Will a new agreement take into account our struggling fish populations?

To date, discussion, and in many cases heated arguments, continue to plague the outdoor community. Let’s face it; the IMHA has done little more than create social tension where it didn’t exist before. Giving rights to certain groups but not others, as history has shown, only fosters ill-feelings. And when those rights can be used in ways they weren’t meant to be—like trophy hunting under the guise of subsistence hunting—ill-feelings only get worse. And it was those ill-feelings that led Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women to voice their opinions to the politicians who created this mess in the first place. So much so that it was realized that something had to be done to stop the uproar. The end result of this uproar led to the creation of an MLA committee—albeit an all-Conservative committee—to examine the faults of the IMHA and hopefully appease the masses so opposed to it. Thus, entered Denis Ducharme, MLA, Bonnyville/Cold Lake, Frank Oberle, MLA, Peace River, and Dr. Neil Brown, MLA, Calgary Nosehill. These three MLA’s were given the task of finding a way to make all of the stakeholders involved happy, and according to Frank Oberle, MLA, Peace River, “We are happy with our recommendations and believe that we have found a middle ground.

“We’ve talked with the various stakeholder groups, including the many letters received from the general public, and came up with our recommendations.”

And just what were those recommendations?

Oberle refused to divulge what was submitted to the three ministers—David Coutts, Sustainable Resource Development, Pearl Calahasen, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Ron Stevens, the Justice minister—who are responsible for drawing up the final agreement. But, according to Oberle, all of the concerns of Alberta’s hunters and anglers were discussed, including trophy hunting.
“In our discussions we certainly talked about all of the issues, including trophy hunting,” he said.

And that, alone, should make some happy, or does it? Without the recommendations being made public, who knows what will come of all the hard work Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women put into in the battle against the IMHA, considering they will again be left in the wings when the final decisions are made.

It is hoped a new harvesting agreement addresses the many issues that concern Alberta’s hunters, anglers and trappers.

And according to Maurice Tougas, the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development critic for the Liberal opposition party, this is normal for the Klein government. “They aren’t believers in public consultation. Most of their committees are Conservative committees and all of their decisions are Conservative decisions,” Tougas said with a definite distaste in his mouth. “We won’t hear anything. They tend to keep this type of stuff to themselves.”

Tougas also believes Alberta’s hunters and anglers did the right thing by speaking out against the IMHA.
“They got a lot of static over this or they wouldn’t have done it (set up a committee). They have constituents to answer to and if they aren’t happy...”

But Oberle thinks they’ve got the answers. “We’re trying to fulfill the government’s constitutional obligation to our aboriginal people while taking Alberta’s need for conservation into consideration as well. And I think we’ve done that.”
But again, many, if not all opposed to the IMHA, believe that that obligation had already been met. “Well it was certainly brought up by the general public and the various stakeholder groups,” Oberle admitted.

So what it looks like now is that the IMHA should never have existed. But government’s don’t admit to errors, rather, they try to put out fires. However, this is one fire that won’t be put out with another draft of another poorly written agreement giving rights to a group that are unnecessary at best. There will have to be some serious changes made if this agreement is to exist without forever dividing the outdoor community, especially in the area of who really needs to hunt for food and who doesn’t.

Alberta’s hunters, anglers and trappers have finally had enough of being left out in the cold where important decisions regarding their fish and wildlife is concerned. After all, it is a resource that belongs to all of us and it has to be used wisely. Firing nets into lakes with collapsed walleye and pike populations and hunting whatever, whenever, just doesn’t make sense.

There is no timetable for when the final decision will be made. However, it should happen sooner rather than later. How it is conveyed to the rest of us, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Another mistake, though, and the ire of Alberta’s hunters, anglers and trappers will once again rise to the top. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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