Province apologizes after wildlife officers seize fish from northern Alberta Métis camp
'We will take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again,' Indigenous Relations Minister says
The Alberta government has apologized to a northern Alberta Métis community after wildlife officers confiscated 25 fish from a camp near Christina Lake on Friday.
"This was an unfortunate circumstance," Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said in a media release Saturday.
"I understand there may have been some issues with the licensing, but I think this situation could have been avoided. I commit that we will take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
The apology comes after the Sept. 15 incident at the Conklin Metis Cultural Camp, around 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, was filmed and posted on Facebook.
Fish and Wildlife investigators were called to the camp because of an illegal net in Christina Lake, the media release said.
Officers did not find the net. After the fish were seized, two people were given appearance notices for fishing without a licence.
Alberta requires people who fish with a net to have a Metis Domestic Fishing Licence.
Video shows a Fish and Wildlife officer taking smoked lake whitefish hanging from wooden beams and placing them in a plastic bag as community members watch.
Some onlookers confront the officer, saying he has no legal authority to confiscate fish they have been traditionally harvesting for decades.
"This is Canada, where Métis and First Nations people belong," one person says in the video. "This is our land."
According to the media release, Feehan apologized to Métis Local 193 President Shirley Tremblay and Vice-President Ernie Desjarlais.
The government says it will work with community members in the coming days to ensure they have appropriate licences.
Minister Feehan was not available Saturday for an interview.
Métis in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities have long said the provincial government has ignored their hunting, fishing and harvesting rights.
One Métis elder and leader recently said he would not cut his hair until the province officially recognizes their Indigenous rights and duty to consult.
Jeffrey O'Donnell, CEO and chair of the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee, said he also received a phone call from Feehan after the incident. He welcomed the apology.
"This is certainly a positive in the light of the circumstances," O'Donnell said. "It is a very good step."
In a press release issued before the provincial government's apology, O'Donnell said he wished "to denounce in the strongest terms possible the inappropriate and abusive behaviour of Fish and Wildlife officers."
O'Donnell said he wants officers to return the fish that was seized.
On Friday <a href="https://twitter.com/FWEnforcement">@FWEnforcement</a> confiscated fish harvested by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Metis?src=hash">#Metis</a> Elders in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Conklin?src=hash">#Conklin</a>. We wholeheartedly denounce this action. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ymm?src=hash">#ymm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ableg?src=hash">#ableg</a> <a href="https://t.co/8YQ8so8Dad">pic.twitter.com/8YQ8so8Dad</a>—@CRDAC