People across the Prairies are asking questions around the treaty right to hunt after Saskatchewan Conservation officers seized moose meat from two First Nations homes in Manitoba.
The chief of Pine Creek First Nation said Wednesday that conservation officers raided two homes last month and confiscated moose meat harvested from Pine Creek's traditional territory, which crosses the Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary.
In response, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he "categorically rejects" allegations that the government is harassing indigenous hunters.
Wall said that conservation officials have been very careful not to enforce anything beyond their mandate.
- Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan not bullying indigenous hunters
- Indigenous hunters in Manitoba say treaty rights violated by Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan's Ministry of the Environment Chief of Enforcement and Investigations, Ken Aube said the ministry is aware of the law and its application when it comes to treaty rights.
"The harvest of fish and wildlife resources for food purposes under the authority of constitutionally protected treaty rights by First Nations is a respected component of the province's management of the resources. We take that very seriously," he said on CBC's The Afternoon Edition.
'We all want to see wildlife there in the years to come for our children and everything so we have a lot of common ground.' - Ken Aube, Chief of Enforcement and Investigations
Although Aube could not speak about the specific case, he said First Nations people have rights to hunt under treaty rights on Crown land, vacant Crown land, and on private land where they have permission from the land owner.
"First Nations people who sign treaties have rights to hunt year round and some of the laws respecting them don't apply. But when it comes to public safety and conservation, then those laws apply to all people," Aube explained.
"Things such as ways to game, unsafe handling of firearms, loaded firearms in a vehicle, things like that."
If there are issues across provincial borders, Aube said there is legislation that does allow for officers to continue investigating.
"If the Manitoba resident came into Saskatchewan and violated some of the fish and wildlife laws here in the province, and if the officer had reason to believe that an offence occurred, then they would follow up as is required to get the evidence to prove the case through the courts," he said.
Aube said that he believes the relationship between First Nations and authorities is unified by a mutual goal of conservation.
"I think it's been good. I attended many council meetings in Manitoba in the past and, you know, I've come away from there [with] each side learning things and an appreciation for each other and the resource," he said.
"We all want to see wildlife there in the years to come for our children and everything so we have a lot of common ground. Overall I think everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety as well."