Nova Scotia

What's really behind the Cape Breton moose cull protest? One reporter offers her views

A reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network says more than moose may be driving a protest opposing a cull on North Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

APTN reporter says protest driven by multiple issues

Protesters gathered Wednesday in opposition to a moose cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Courtesty APTN)

A reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network says more than moose may be driving a protest opposing a cull on North Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

A small group of Mi'kmaq hunters are conducting the moose harvest on behalf of Parks Canada, which says a "hyper-abundant" population is preventing the re-growth of vegetation in the park.

APTN reporter Trina Roache told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon that she was there at the start of the hunt Wednesday to do a story on the Mi'kmaq hunters conducting the harvest for the Unima'ki Institute of Natural Resources.

She said about 30 protestors joined opponent and hunting guide Dennis Day at his roadside location, and she went to speak with them as well.

Roache said it quickly became apparent the protesters intended to go into the restricted zone on North Mountain and confront the hunters. 

She says the Mi'kmaq hunters expected some opposition once the cull began, but they were not prepared for a confrontation. She says Parks Canada wardens stepped in to calm the protesters, then selected two among them to go meet the hunters.

Into the restricted zone

"Very quickly, a larger group, probably up to 20 of the protesters, followed," she recounted. "As we went down, we saw the Mi'kmaq hunters were sort of standing there and they knew at this point what was about to transpire and were standing in a line, ready to greet them."

Roache said as the large contingent approached the hunters, tempers flared, both sides began shouting and a decision was made to suspend the hunt.

"There's a real, I think, lack of understanding of why the Mi'kmaq were there," Roache said.

There were also mixed messages from the protesters, she says. One sign read "Stop the Slaughter," while another said "Let's Hunt Together."

She says the Mi'kmaq believe the protesters don't understand their right as treaty holders to perform the harvest. 

One protest sign, Roache says, read "Parks Canada is prejudiced against white people."

'They want in on the hunt'

Lead protester Dennis Day has said he doesn't believe the hunt is necessary because the moose population was starved and injured during the last winter.

Roache said she interviewed him and he said admitted he doesn't know much about treaty rights.

"He didn't understand why the Mi'kmaq were in there, why it's not 50-50. You know, they want in on the hunt," Roache says. 

"And from the Mi'kmaq perspective, when they're targeted because there's that lack of understanding. Yeah, it definitely does have racial overtones. I think that the Mi'kmaq hunters definitely felt that yesterday."

Roache said some protesters accused the Mi'kmaq hunters of planning to hunt all over the park, instead of the 20-square-kilometre restricted zone. The hunters replied that's not how they do a harvest.

For many, the protest comes down to money, said Roache, and she said that became clear during the confrontation between the two groups.

"The Mi'kmaq, they're not selling the meat, they're not making money off this. They take the meat back to the community," she said. "But there's a livelihood for the guides that happens there and they feel like that's getting cut into."

Parks Canada and the Unima'ki Institute agreed in a conference call today to proceed with the moose harvest, with "more enforcement." Parks Canada has not decided when the hunt will resume.

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