Manitoba

Manitoba Métis Federation taking province to court over 'unconstitutional' moose-hunting ban

The Manitoba Métis Federation says it plans to take the provincial government to court over a ban on moose hunting it calls “unconstitutional.”

Government says it hasn’t yet been served with any legal action

The planned legal action comes after what the federation described as repeated attempts by the province 'to hold the Manitoba Métis inherent right to harvest in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains hostage to unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions.' (Jim Cole/The Associated Press)

The Manitoba Métis Federation says it plans to take the provincial government to court over a ban on moose hunting it calls "unconstitutional."

That ban was implemented without consulting with them, the federation said in a news release on Friday. It also fails to protect Indigenous harvesting rights and violates Section 35 of the Constitution Act, the group said.

That part of the Constitution "explicitly recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada," the federal government's website says.

The planned legal action comes after what the federation described as repeated attempts by the province "to hold the Manitoba Métis inherent right to harvest in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains hostage to unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions."

The organization said it also wants to protect Métis harvesters charged for hunting moose and feeding their families in traditional ways and obtain redress from provincial and federal governments for how those hunters were treated — which it characterized as "human and civil rights infractions."

Those incidents include one where a father and son selected "to engage in a limited sustainable moose harvest … following all Métis laws and using proper tags" were charged and detained for several hours, the release said.

That included one hour in the back of an RCMP cruiser and then another three hours once conservation officers arrived, Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand said in the release.

On another occasion, an 82-year-old Métis citizen "was harassed by a Manitoba conservation officer, who indicated their Métis harvester card was meaningless."

In an emailed statement, the province says hunting in those areas has been closed since 2011 to allow its threatened moose population to recover.

That closure was "implemented after extensive consultations with Indigenous communities," the statement said.

The government said it has also started consultations to develop a long-term framework to reopen hunting, but in the meantime it has "made a limited fall moose hunt available for Indigenous communities who obtain authorization under these interim measures."

"Despite the availability of interim harvesting opportunities for Indigenous communities, the MMF has proceeded unilaterally by issuing its own hunting tags, recognizing that this could lead to charges for illegally killed moose," the province's statement said.

"Conservation officers have responsibilities to appropriately investigate and enforce the moose conservation closure and ask for the assistance of local RCMP where required. Any individuals illegally hunting moose are charged and released on appearance notices and the moose and their firearms may be seized."

But the Métis federation said that the shared management process "has the effect of subjecting the exercise of constitutionally protected Indigenous harvesting rights to the approval of non-Indigenous hunters."

It said it has raised concerns about that approach publicly and privately to no avail.

The province said it can't comment further on the recent hunting charges now before the courts and it hasn't yet been served with any court action raising other allegations.

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