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 with Rob Miskosky

Métis Harvesting Back On The Table

Back in 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recognized that Métis have an aboriginal right to hunt that is protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The SCC decision declared that Métis people who can show a direct link to a historic Métis community have the same aboriginal rights as First Nations to hunt, fish or trap for food, among other purposes.

It is hoped that a new Métis harvesting policy takes conservation as its guiding principle.

In 2004, then Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Pearl Calahasen, with the help of Mike Cardinal, then Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, along with the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), drew up an agreement called the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement (IMHA) that would give unabated rights to the Métis peoples of Alberta to hunt, fish and trap year-round on all Alberta lands. The IMHA was far broader in scope than what the SCC had intended.

Which didn’t sit well with many, including Alberta’s First Nations. National Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations said back then, “We are talking about treaty rights and Aboriginal rights and we are not prepared to compromise our position. We are not prepared to give up land. Any alienation of First Nations land... we will aggressively resist that.”

And Alberta’s hunting and fishing community also lashed out against the agreement, distressed over the fact that far too many that didn’t need to hunt, fish or trap for sustenance would now be employing their newly found rights to trophy hunt, decimating game populations.

In March 2007, JB Struthers reported in his Black and White column that so-called Métis subsistence hunters, to that date, had killed 29 sheep, 2 goats, 1 grizzly bear, and 2 cougars. These statistics came from Fish and Wildlife’s compulsory registration requirement of these species. And it was this type of fraudulent-subsistence hunting and public outcry that eventually helped then Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Ted Morton, put an end to the IMHA.

Now, a decade later, and even with Alberta’s hunting subsistence licence, a special licence for Albertans who rely on wild meat to feed them and/or their families available free-of-charge from Fish and Wildlife offices, the MNA and the Government of Alberta are back at the table “undertaking a review of our Métis Harvesting in Alberta policy.”

According to a document titled, “A Way Forward: Métis Harvesting in Alberta”, signed by MNA President Audrey Poitras and Alberta Environment and Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips, that can be found at, “This proposed Way Forward document sets out a process by which the MNA can directly engage with Alberta on Métis harvesting concerns through the review of the (current) Policy.” It also states, “Alberta seeks to work with the MNA to consider certain aspects of Métis harvesting, such as the geographic areas where eligible Métis harvesters can undertake harvesting activities; the extent of potential historical regional Métis communities and areas in Alberta; potential roles for the MNA to participate in the identification of potential eligible Métis harvesters; and opportunities for the MNA to participate in reporting subsistence harvesting information.”

The document also hopes to have a revised policy on Métis harvesting “implemented by the spring of 2018.”

Considering there has been no formal news release announcing such, it can only be assumed they are still at the table.

Let’s hope for the sake of our fish and game populations that a new policy adheres to the SCC decision that says, “First, the claimant must self-identify as a member of a Métis community. This self-identification should not be of recent vintage: While an individual’s self-identification need not be static or monolithic, claims that are made belatedly in order to benefit from an s. 35 right will not satisfy the self-identification requirement.”

Something the original IMHA did not do. ■

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