Manitoba Metis Federation bans spotlighting
Night hunting will still be allowed in Central and Northern Manitoba
Manitoba Metis Federation members have voted to ban spotlighting.
Night hunting, however, will still be allowed, in remote and northern areas of Manitoba.
The MMF defines spotlighting as "chasing animals in motorized vehicles, including trucks, snowmobiles, ATVs, boats, etc. with artificial lighting."
A bright light is shone into the eyes of animals such as moose, elk and deer, causing the prey to stand still and therefore making it easier for them to be killed.
Spotlighting is illegal in many provinces, but legal for Indigenous people in Manitoba.
MMF president David Chartrand said the organization began consulting with Metis Manitobans about ending the practice after hearing people were concerned about racism directed at people over the issue and safety concerns from hunters and Metis farmers alike.
"Spotlighting is the end of a practice of our people, and we will not use it and put people's lives in danger," Chartrand said. "People are sending the message loud and clear ... the mobility of using vehicles to night-hunt with a spotlight will come to an end."
Chartrand said he was proud that the vote to end spotlighting was nearly unanimous.
"Bullets go a long way, they can actually reach a house," Chartrand said. "That's something our people said, 'that can't happen.'"
Spotlighting became a flashpoint of controversy after reports of spotlighting near farms. In January, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister came under fire for saying divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people over hunting at night were "becoming a race war."
Night hunting allowed in northern Manitoba
MMF delegates voted to continue to allow night hunting — and even the use of artificial lights — under some circumstances.
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A second resolution passed Sunday prohibits night hunting in southern Manitoba, but will allow it in northern and central Manitoba.
Chartrand said the MMF will meet with the province to create a map with precise definitions of where night hunting will and will not be allowed. He said the Duck Mountains and Porcupine Mountains are also possibilities.
The Metis Laws of the Harvest will be updated to reflect the passage of the resolutions, he said.
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First Nations Canadians have a right to hunt for food at night, a right protected by the Constitution Act of 1982, provided it is done safely and under certain conditions — such as on reserves, unoccupied Crown land or private land with permission.
In 2012, Manitoba and the Manitoba Metis Federation negotiated a harvesting agreement that further defined Metis' hunting rights.
The text of the resolution prohibiting night-hunting in southern Manitoba states, "this direction does not extinguish or give up the Metis right to harvest at night in any way; it simply puts Metis-created limitations on this aspect of our inherent right based on our collective decisions and self-government."
Chartrand said the MMF and province have an agreement to collaborate on managing harvesting laws; Metis hunters gets cards they can present to conservation officers.
The Metis Laws of the Harvest are collectively decided and self-governed, which Chartrand said will allow the MMF to give punishments they feel are more appropriate than simple fines.
He suggested the possibly a one-year hunting ban for someone caught spotlighting. Adjudication procedures still need to be defined.
"If there's no Harvester card given to them ... then the Metis government will no longer protect them if they are charged with offences. So they will be standing on their own," Chartrand said, emphasizing the large legal fees that someone charged with spotlighting could face.
"Our laws in fact are more restrictive than the provincial laws of Manitoba, we have more conservation-minded policies in ours ... and I can guarantee that we'll probably be punishing harder than the Province of Manitoba when our laws are being disrespected by our own people."
Chartrand said other big changes came out of the AGM, including a plan to pay for seniors' medications and tentative plans to open a business centre in Winnipeg. On Saturday at the AGM, the federal government agreed to return artifacts of Louis Riel to the Metis nation.