President's Message - October 7, 2020

October 7, 2020

As many know, your Métis Government announced that we are partially reopening Game Hunting Areas (GHAs) 13, 13A - Porcupine Mountain and 18, 18A, 18B, and 18C - Duck Mountain to a limited harvest and confirming that GHA 26 in the Manigotagan area has been and continues to be fully open for moose hunting. The Turtle Mountain area will remain closed, as there is not enough information available.

This decision was not made lightly but was well thought out. Our Cabinet heard from our Citizens, Harvesters, and Elders that there was an interest in reopening these GHAs. This decision was supported by survey data provided by the province, including the provincial regulation that was passed to plan on reopening these areas, indicating the Duck and Porcupine Mountains could sustain a harvest of 60 moose. This, along with traditional knowledge assisted us to make a conservation-minded decision.

For the limited harvest in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains, our Métis Harvesters can apply, as a harvesting party containing a minimum of four Harvesters, to receive one Conservation Moose Tag. There is one moose tag issued for each group hunt and the meat of that one bull will be shared between all harvesters within that hunting party, their families, and our Elders. These tags will be designated to the leader of the party - known as the Captain of the Hunt. The deadline for applying is 9 am on October 14.

The MMF continues to pride itself in a transparent and democratic process. The draw will be a livestreamed at 2 pm on the same day, October 14. We will only be drawing 16 tags for Duck Mountain and 10 tags for Porcupine Mountain. Be sure to submit your completed application to mooseconservation@mmf.mb.ca. All other information can be found on our website, mmf.mb.ca.

The feedback we are receiving from our Métis Citizens and other Indigenous peoples is very positive. We continue to receive words of encouragement from our Citizens. We know that there is an increase in the population of moose in the Duck and Porcupine Mountain areas as presented to us in Manitoba's studies and as stated in their regulations. An opening with minimal harvesting of bull moose will not harm the moose population in either the Duck or Porcupine Mountain areas.

We were pleased to see that the Southern Chiefs' Organization (SCO) issued a press release that supported our position that the Manitoba Government is attempting to undermine our inherent section 35 rights.

In this release, SCO stated that they are "looking to host a meeting with the Manitoba Métis Government to continue the dialogue about Indigenous harvesting rights and responsibilities." We too look forward to meeting with SCO in the near future to discuss the creation of a first-of-its-kind Métis Nation and First Nations joint conservation authority.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) also issued a statement that supports our position that Indigenous Peoples have the right to harvest ahead of licenced non-Indigenous hunters. We are hoping that there will be an opportunity to discuss conservation initiatives with them in the future as well.

The voices of the First Nations and Métis Nation are strong individually, but together we are even stronger. Together we are bound to do incredible things for the protection of Indigenous rights across Manitoba and Canada. This dialogue is the start of something that is going to be truly historic.

Of course, not everyone was pleased with Indigenous peoples taking a stand for our rights. The province and Manitoba Wildlife Federation both opposed our decision. They are not respecting the importance of the law and the constitution of Indigenous rights as clearly outlined in Supreme Court of Canada decisions.

Both Manitoba and the Wildlife Federation support a partial reopening for "all users". However, in R v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada clearly stated that "[...] any allocation of priorities after valid conservation measures have been implemented must give top priority to [Aboriginal, including Métis, First Nations, and Inuit harvesting]."

What is being proposed by Manitoba does not respect Indigenous harvesting. Their data indicates there are 40 animals in The Ducks and 20 in The Porcupines that can be harvested. That is a total of 60 bull moose. There was a clear position by the province that this would not be opened unless the moose was equally shared with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This small amount of moose will be shared between the Métis Nation and First Nations as we work towards a consultation process. As the Moose population continues to grow, we encourage other stakeholders to this opportunity.

The Métis Nation and First Nations have been harvesting to feed their families from our land for centuries. Our right to harvest does not come from the province, but rather our Ancestors, and is protected by section 35 of Canada's Constitution.

It is unfortunate that section 35 rightsholders were not consulted on moose conservation efforts or the recent regulations attempting to reopen a moose harvest on our Ancestors' traditional land. We are still willing to meet and discuss moose conservation rights with Manitoba along with our First Nation relatives, but we need to have a common understanding that Indigenous rights are protected and will not to be trampled on.

Our approach is not only intended to make sure that the Métis Nation gets a fair share of the harvest, but our minimum party size of four using one conservation tag makes sure that the harvest is spread out among numerous families and throughout Métis villages across the province. COVID-19 makes it difficult for our Elders to visit the grocery store safely. I strongly encourage those parties who receive a Conservation Moose Tag to give a portion of their harvest to our Elders.

This time of year, many are cleaning their rifles, making sure they have their valid Harvester card and CTF sticker and tags. They are ready to go and harvest to provide for their families. I hope all have a bountiful and safe harvest.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, please make sure to adhere to social distancing, wear a mask, and regularly wash your hands when shopping for Thanksgiving supper as well as at your family gatherings. Our Métis Nation values gathering as a family and Community, but we need to be sure that we do so in a way that does not put the health of others at risk.

I send my prayers for all those affected by COVID and those affected by the economic and social impacts the pandemic is having on all of us. Though it may be difficult, we need to be sure that we are protecting our Elders and other vulnerable people. Together we will weather this second wave and exit it stronger than before.

 


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