'Right thing to do': Passamaquoddy granted special moose hunt in New Brunswick
Agreement with provincial government allows up to 7 moose to be harvested in November
The Passamaquoddy people of New Brunswick and Maine will be able to hunt seven moose in the province this month, under a special agreement with the Gallant government announced on Friday.
The agreement comes four months into formal negotiations between the Passamaquoddy and the federal government for recognition as a First Nation.
"In the spirit of peace and friendship, and in keeping with the existing relationship between the Passamaquoddy and the Crown, we are facilitating this moose hunt," Roger Melanson, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said in a statement.
The Passamaquoddy have long been denied First Nation status and treaty rights by the Canadian government, despite repeated attempts, but they are signatories to the Peace and Friendship Treaties in New Brunswick, dating back to around 1779.
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"This agreement enables the Passamaquoddy to undertake this foundational treaty right to hunt moose," Melanson said in an email to CBC News.
"This [is] an interim measure during this set hunting season while the federal recognition process is ongoing," he said. "It's the right thing to do."
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada officials did not provide comment on Friday.
Melanson and Rick Doucet, the energy and resource development minister, signed the moose harvest agreement with the Passamaquoddy Nation and Chief Sakom Hugh Akagi.
'We welcome the opportunity to exercise our traditional rights and responsibilities, which are so critical to our continued experience as a people.' - Sakom Hugh Akagi, Passamaquoddy chief
"We will exercise this treaty right respectful of the best principles of conservation in preserving a healthy moose population throughout our territory," the chief said in the government release.
"We welcome the opportunity to exercise our traditional rights and responsibilities, which are so critical to our continued experience as a people."
The agreement allows for up to seven moose to be killed in wildlife management zones 15 and 20 in the Saint John, St. Stephen and Woodstock areas by Nov. 30.
Federal talks 'going well'
Kanatiio Gabriel, negotiations co-ordinator for the Passamaquoddy, called the deal "significant."
"This is the first agreement we've reached with New Brunswick on anything, as far as I know," he said, adding he hopes it's going to be "the first of many."
Asked how soon an agreement might be reached with the federal government, Gabriel said they've only had three meetings and there's a long list of outstanding issues, ranging from land and self-governance to education and health care.
"We've just begun. But I can say that I'm optimistic and that the discussions are going well so far."
Melanson said the Passamaquoddy Nation will determine which seven community members will be given the hunting tags.
"The province acknowledges that it may include hunters who reside in Maine," he said.
The Passamaquoddy are a single nation and under the Jay Treaty of 1794, "Indians" are "at full liberty" to move across the border "unmolested."
Gabriel said a "call out" for interested hunters has already been issued and he expects Passamaquoddy council will come up with a process for designating the seven tags next week.
A record 3,801 moose were killed during the regular New Brunswick hunt Sept. 26 to Sept. 30 — 366 more than last year, according to the Department of Energy and Resource Development's preliminary figures.
More than 60,000 people applied for the 4,635 licences available. In wildlife management zone 15, the province granted 109 licences and in zone 20, it granted 179.
This year marked the fourth year the province had a five-day moose hunt. Before 2014, the season was three days long.
Information about the Passamaquoddy harvest will be shared with the government to help inform population models.
With files from Jacques Poitras