Métis leader, hunter demand answers from province about inconsistent hunting rights
Métis hunters are allowed to exercise hunting rights in parts of northern Sask., but not southern Sask.
Brendan Morin, a Métis man from northwestern Saskatchewan who now calls Regina home, was with his relatives — all status card carrying Indigenous people — when he was given a ticket for illegal hunting.
Morin said he believed that as a Métis person he had every right to be hunting the lands near Kenosee, Sask., about 200 kilometres southeast of Regina, because he was hunting elk to feed his family.
Instead he will have to go to court in December to fight roughly $4,000 in fines.
Morin said that when he was handed his fines, conservation officers told him that if he chose to hunt in the north as opposed to the south, he wouldn't have had any issues.
"It's not right and it needs to be corrected," Morin said on Thursday.
Saskatchewan's rules around hunting are different for Métis people than for other Indigenous people, who are allowed to hunt on any unoccupied Crown lands.
The Saskatchewan Treaty and Aboriginal Rights for Hunting and Fishing Guide said Métis people are allowed to exercise their rights to hunt within two specific areas in northern Saskatchewan.
"In all other areas of the province, Métis Aboriginal rights are not currently recognized," the guide said.
Morin called on the province to change the rules and regulations in the spirit of reconciliation.
"I'd just really like to see some clear set rules, some guidelines that everybody in the province needs to follow so that we can all cohabit and share," Morin said.
"It needs to be sat down and negotiated. There has to be talks. There has to be agreements. The framework has to be there so that we can live together."
Matter previously addressed in court
Clem Chartier, the Métis National Council's president, also represents Métis hunters as a lawyer pro bono in rights disputes via the Métis Legal Research and Education Foundation.
On Thursday, he too called on the province to change its rules around Métis hunting rights at a small gathering hosted on the legislature building's west lawn in Regina.
"I'm not sure why this province doesn't recognize the rights of the Métis in southern Saskatchewan, which flies in the face of their own judicial system," Chartier said.
He cited a 2007 provincial court decision involving Donald Joseph Belhumeur as a legal decision that applies to Métis hunters in Saskatchewan.
Belhumeur, a Métis man, was charged for angling without a valid license in 2002 in contradiction of The Fisheries Act. A provincial court judge found Belhumeur, who argued he had a right to fish as a Métis person, not guilty.
Chartier noted that in neighbouring Manitoba, the government was able to strike a harvesting agreement with Métis people that spanned the entirety of that province after one court case.
"This government should respect [the Belhumeur] finding," Chartier said. "There's no magic to coming up with an agreement between the Métis government in this province and themselves."
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said it was in discussions with Métis leaders in Saskatchewan about hunting rights and would offer further comment on the matter later Thursday afternoon.
The Ministry of Environment's response was directed through the Ministry of Justice, which said the government had recently started discussions with Métis Nation — Saskatchewan regarding harvesting rights in Saskatchewan.
"These are issues that can and will be dealt with in a co-operative spirit in the negotiations with the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, which we look forward to pursuing," the statement said.
It said the government was not aware of any prosecutions of hunters or fishers asserting Métis rights in the Qu'Appelle valley area since the Belhumeur decision was issued in 2007.
Chartier said if the Métis National Council were asked by the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan to lobby for change, the organization would do so.
He said he wasn't sure where he would go next in terms of asking for the government to honour the judge's decision in the Belhumeur matter.
"We're not sure what the remedy is. How do you enforce a provincial court decision?" Chartier asked.
"I think it would be up to the judiciary themselves, one would think, or at least the attorney general, to ensure their court's decisions are upheld."