Over reacting or justified?


EDMONTON - Wildlife and fish are at risk because of a deal that lets Alberta Metis hunt and fish year-round without limits on what they can kill, conservationists say.

The province signed the Metis Interim Harvesting Agreement last fall in response to a Supreme Court ruling on Metis hunting rights.

While the ruling affects Metis in all provinces, some groups fear Alberta's approach could lead to a conservation nightmare.

"We are concerned that this agreement opens the doors to the unregulated harvesting of Alberta's wildlife," said Randy Collins, president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association.

"We have concerns when anyone is given the right to take unlimited quantities of fish or game, or to disregard seasonal restrictions which are in place to ensure their long-term survival."

Stories of abuse are already ricocheting around the province.

Alberta fish and wildlife officers say Metis hunters have shot Big Horn Sheep just for their horns.

"There has been a large number of trophy Big Horn Sheep that have been killed by Metis since the agreement was put in place under the guise of subsistence rights," said one officer who declined to be named for fear of disciplinary action.

"We've had people advise us they intend to go out and shoot goats. We've had people advise us of their intention to shoot caribou, which of course are threatened in Alberta."

There have also been unconfirmed reports of Metis shooting pregnant game.

Audrey Poitras, president of the Metis Nation of Alberta, said concerns about the deal are overstated and based on misinformation.

Under the agreement, Metis are not allowed to hunt in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks or other protected areas.

"The information being provided out there has created a lot of fear. We don't believe there is any reason for that fear," said Poitras.

"We as Metis people certainly believe in conservation. We are creating our own system of harvesting practices. But there is not a legal requirement for us to do this."

In its 2003 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Metis have the right to fish, hunt and trap under the Constitution.

While Alberta chose to negotiate a broad agreement with Metis, other provinces are more restrictive and Metis have been charged with illegal hunting and fishing.

Ontario reached an agreement last summer with the Metis Nation of Ontario that allows 1,200 Metis to hunt in their traditional territory near Sudbury.

Similar negotiations are underway with other Metis groups. But that hasn't stopped the province from laying 180 illegal hunting and fishing charges against people who claim to be Metis.

Saskatchewan, which has allowed some Metis to hunt and fish in parts of the province since 1997, recently charged a Metis man with fishing out of season. That case is before the courts.

In Manitoba, a case involving a Brandon-area Metis man is to be heard in January.

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, said he wishes other provinces would follow Alberta's lead instead of dragging the issue out in the courts.

"Premier Ralph Klein did the right thing by showing leadership," he said. "Other premiers have not followed suit."

Alberta's agreement applies to about 31,000 members of the Metis Nation of Alberta and that number is expected to grow.

Since the deal was signed, hundreds of people have applied for a Metis card.

Metis leaders say only a small percentage of their members hunt and fish, but conservationists are still worried.

"This is going to lead to a substantially increased harvest of the wildlife and fish of this province," said a fish and wildlife officer.

Alberta Aboriginal Affairs Minister Pearl Calahasen declined interview requests.

Donna Babchishin, spokeswoman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said the province is aware people are concerned about the Metis agreement.

She said the government plans to increase spending by $7.3 million this year to bolster wildlife and fish monitoring, including hiring more staff.

"This will go a long way to give people the confidence that we've got the resources to monitor the impacts on the species from all different pressures, including harvest pressures," she said.

Details on the funding are expected to be released later this week.
Canadian Press 2005

I have never quite understood the concern over native groups using the natural resources as they see fit. They, if anyone, are the most trustworthy when it comes to maintaining some semblance of true conservation. There will always be a few bad apples, but as a group they understand the relationships between man and nature more than the rest of Canadians.

They, if anyone, are the most trustworthy when it comes to maintaining some semblance of true conservation. There will always be a few bad apples, but as a group they understand the relationships between man and nature more than the rest of Canadians.

What evidence do you have of this? I think it is a total myth that they are somehow more in tuned with the environment than anybody else.
I'm with MMMike on this one they might have been that way in the past but I don't see it now I.E. the eagles on the coast I know a few around here that take way more than their share
Jo Canadian
The origional reason why natives are allowed to hunt year round is for a more practical purpose. It is for personal acquirement of food for family.

I think those that hunt/fish for commercial purposes, or wasteful killing like taking the horns should be punished appropriately native or white and have their guns taken away.

I know many natives that spend lots of time out on the land hunting and camping, these would be the ones that would be considered "in tune" they are the ones who act more or less respnsibly as far as the cliche goes. But there are those that will hunt because it's a loophole that they want to take advantage of. That part is not fair, and that portion of this law should be looked at.

Natives and whites are no different when it comes to responsibility. You can get a whiteman that lives in the country, or in the wilderness that will exert the same responsibility that any native in the same situation will do. The difference is where they live and are raised. Most white people live in larger communites and urban centres and hunting is seen more as a sport. Whereas many natives are part of smaller communities. So ratio-wize, you'll find more natives who do live closer to the land.

I myself have went out hunting in the spring while I was living in Cambay/kugluktuk. Many of my friends will get around 15-30 geese, which may seem like overkill, but these geese would be given to cousins,aunts,uncles,grandparents,parents who can't go out hunting and cant afford local store bought food ($7.50 2L of milk, $18.00 for a jar of cheeze whiz)

But back to the south, where food is cheaper the need to hunt shouldn't be necessary as much as it is up north. Certain reforms should be made more up to date for the situation at hand. I see nothing wrong with hunting for food and family throughout the year, but the penalties should be F*****g harsher than they are now for anyone who abuses it in any way, whether native or not. Or at least give these substinance hunters a license/written contract on what they can and cannot do. To say you can do this, or are allowed to behave this way because you're native is a cop-out.
I doubt I could provide 'evidence' that would meet scientific standards. I doubt anyone could until we manage to place tracking devices on every insect, bird and animal in the country along with detailing the growth/destruction accurately for all plant life.

They have a tradition of living off the land without placing a species in a position of extinction. We, by that I mean those of non-native decent, have a tradition of taking what we need without thought of the ramifications. That alone is a fairly good indicator.

We kill off 'pest' species like wolves, foxes, deer, groundhogs without realising the effect on the overall natural food chain. We then eventually realise there is an imbalance and try to figure out a way to return to the previous natural state. Natives who are true to their tradition do not do this. They take what they need to survive and a bit more for trade/sale/relatives and that's it.
We have destroyed the Cod stocks, imperilled the salmon stocks more than once, created extreme imbalance in natural animal herds/packs, introduced non-native plant life which has caused havoc with the indigenous plant life....need i go on?

I agree wholheartedly that the 'modern' natives don't fit this description but they are the ones living in the cities (ie. apart from nature) and trying to further their cause through higher education and becoming part of the system. (lawyers, politicians, etc).

I also never stated they were perfect, only that they understood this balance more so than the rest of us who think a few weekends camping per year counts as being in tune with the natural order of things. Which is not to say that there are not white folks out there just as in tune with nature as natives, just that they are few and far between.
Dexter Sinister
There's some doubt about that stuff, Canucklehead. There is some evidence to suggest it was aboriginal hunters who killed off the post-Ice Age megafauna in North America. And have you ever been to a buffalo jump site? They used to stampede the animals over a cliff, killing and injuring far more animals than they could reasonably use or preserve. That old claim about aboriginals being some kind of natural environmentalists doesn't wash. They just didn't have the numbers or the technology to rape the landscape the way we can, but I don't know of any reason to think they were any more conservation-minded 5 and 10 thousand years ago than we are now.
I think it's completely justifiable to be worried.

We (white canadians) have a large gov't in place here in BC (DFO) who is incapable (financially) and unable (politically) to do anything about a loss of 150 mill Fraser river sockeye from 2004. You'd think with a gov't of this size that something would be done.

DFO is unwilling to "insult" the natives by enforcing fish ticketing (the way they monitor fishing catch)
Ya, imagine the nerve of those nativies, they act like they were here first or something It really very simple canacklehead...and as you say there are always some bad apples, just like in every culture, but the truth is in my opinion only that....

Natives=man and nature
The rest= man and commerce
Jo Canadian
I think it's time that there may have to be some *insults* done. The rules that were set, were made in an era where it helped them with their lifestyles. In the days of commercialism and deterioration of species that lifestyle isn't realistic. How hard is it for you to record your catch? Everybody should be pitching in on observing the changes in the land and keeping the wildlife stable as possible. Refusing to change an Archaic law, or at least adapt it to fit modern needs on the basis of a percieved insult is counterproductive.

Natives=man and nature

I think that this equation was true before the reservations and residential schools and before we demanded that they stop their native practices.

But today, they are as far removed from nature as we are.

Stampeding may not be best method but take it in context. A rampaging buffalo or moose can kill a human in the blink of an eye. The native tribes of the time could hardly afford to lose a hunter or two per hunt. Over the course of a season it may well result in a double digit decline of their hunters, thus putting the entire tribe as risk. Considering how much meat they would get from such a tactic it's unlikely they'd need to do it often, not to mention they'd hardly be denting the populations as it stood in those days. They'd managed not to kill them all off over thousands of years so it seems likely they had a basic understanding of what they were doing.


DFO had the monetary/political resources to correct the salmon issue of 2004 and the upcoming one as well but as you say, the political will is not there. All they need to do is lay down the law and force the farmers to move thier operations away from the mouths of rivers where the natural stocks migrate.

Remember the FPC of the 90's? I was living in BC at the time, working for MoF, and remember industry bitching up a storm but everyone else seemed to be onside. A good example of willpower. Whether that's changed since the mid-90's, I can't say as I don't live there any more.
You may be right twila, I just happen to know alot of native=man +nature first nations.
Well out here on the Fraser it is like DFO is scared of the natives or something. They dont go near them anymore. If Natives actually used the fish they caught to eat,(how many fish can one person eat?) i would not have a problem with it, but when you damn near net the river from one side to the other and sell the salmon on the side of the road and in bars (which is very common) I have a problem with that.
The natives also sell to the commercial fishermen. They sell below what every ones else is selling for....It tends to cause consternation among fishers.
Dexter Sinister
Quote: Originally Posted by Canucklehead

they'd hardly be denting the populations as it stood in those days.

That was exactly my point, or part of it.

it seems likely they had a basic understanding of what they were doing.

No, I don't agree. It seems likely that they had no more understanding of ecology than any other people in history did, until modern science showed it to us. They took what they could, but weren't able to take enough to do any real damage. Claims about aboriginal peoples being some kind of instinctive or natural environmentalists strike me as mythologizing and romanticising them, and suggest some other agenda's at work. I've never seen any evidence that'd justify such a claim.
Twila and No1,

I had no idea they did that type of thing on a scale which would net them enough to sell to commercial fishers. Is this common or simply a few malcontents defiantly thumbing their noses at authority?


I don't think they were some sort of god-like environmentalists either, for the record. I do however believe they were/are more in tune with their surroundings. Whether they could put it into any more modern ecological terms other than "kill too many and they'll be gone" or not is irrelevant. It only take observation and a bit common sense to realise that if you kill a prego mama bear, there will be fewer baby bears next year to feed on. I bit simplistic, sure, but valid. I don't know enough about their religious beliefs to really comment on them other than they seem to revolve around animals and that they were created from the earth. This, to me, indicates a reverence for nature to some extent thus a desire to live in concert with it.
Yuo should see the fishing on the fraser and the interior rivers too the natives just slay them. I'm surprised we have any salmon left .Its quite the gauntlet the poor fish have to run to get to the spawning grounds
Dexter Sinister
This site contains this watered-down comment in discussing the Head Smashed In jump site in Alberta:

"...the altruistic view of the Canadian Natives as only hunting for what they could use immediately or over the winter may not be entirely true.'

This (external - login to view) review of some serious research on the subject makes it much more explicit. From the site:

"Krech's well-researched and documented descriptions of Indians' use of fire, land, and hunting stand in stark contrast to the romantic view of Native Americans living in harmony with nature, taking only what they needed out of some proto-environmentalist ethic of voluntary simplicity."

And again:

"He also examines issues such as the possible role of Indians in Pleistocene extinctions of large mammals, their burning of ancient forests, and their decimation of deer populations."
Canucklehead, the natives have a commercial fishing fleet just like us. They are given priority over opening's because they are first nations. Their quota's are not checked for fear of insult.

It is a huge problem.
I appreciate the links, additional viewpoints are always welcome.
The first link was interesting from a 'how-to' perspective.
The second, while informative, had one sentence which makes me believe the author was biased.

Throughout The Ecological Indian, Krech systematically debunks popular myths--many of them promoted by politically motivated greens pushing draconian environmental measures--and instead brings reality to the history of American Indians.

Statements like this have no place in a true and unbiased review of a topic. Call me cynical if you will but that's how I see it. I would need to read another article of equal factual content from the other side of the opinion aisle in order to put them together in a middle ground where the truth usually resides.


I took from the comments earlier that this was a netting in the rivers type fishing, not open sea as per commercial standards. In the case of fleets, I agree they should be bound by our commercial quota laws. As for net fishing in rivers, well... I personally find it abhorrant but would not object if that method were the choice for those doing small scale catches for food, and even possibly to supply the local bar with fish. (to clarify: i am thinking small town local bar, not city restaurants)
River catch can be close to the same as open sea though.
Quote: Originally Posted by Twila

River catch can be close to the same as open sea though.

Sorry if I was unclear but by small scale and local pub/bar I meant a situation where they wouldn't need to go through a LOT of fish per month(town of 10 000 kinda thing)... something closer to a decent amount of pocket change as opposed to actually making a living, if that makes sense
Dexter Sinister
Quote: Originally Posted by Canucklehead

...one sentence which makes me believe the author was biased.

That's the reviewer you're talking about, not the author. How many statements do you want?

How about another review of the same book by another independent scholar:

Book review (external - login to view)

Or this essay by Charles Kendrick Cowdery:

Essay (external - login to view)

Or Meriwether Lewis' description, of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, from which it's clear there was a lot of wastage:

Lewis (external - login to view)
Dexter Sinister
Or you could read chapter 4 of Jared Diamond's latest book, Collapse, on how the Anasazi self-destructed. They suffered some climate change, but hastened their own end by having no real understanding of the environment they were living in.
Thanks for the additional links, Dex. I'll have a read of them this evening when I get a chance and check out Collapse if the library has a copy.
Just go to Yale BC where the Canyon starts/ends when the sockeye run and see what goes on for your self.

I know its not a majority but it is a large scale by a few. They do do the odd bust at a warehouse storing illegal salmon. But some bands are also quite militant and do what they want when they want. Go to the valley in Summer and it is not hard to buy $5 sockeye or any of the 5 species of salmon.

Something has to be done and a descent deal made for commercial, native and sportsfisherman so we can all have our share and leave enough to spawn, before salmon are totally wiped out.

All user groups have their poachers, but with the media bias and that conservative MP Cummins from Delta yapping on tv blaming only natives, make people believe it is just Natives doing it. But I fish that river and I see non native people poaching and taking more than their 2 sockeyes a day and no CO's around.

I just think busting Natives on the river makes for better TV than busting anyone elese. The media plays right into busting "illegal fishing by natives" and therefore gives the perception it is only the natives poaching, when that is not the case.

But it is politically incorrect to point out natives are screwing up but it is ok to blame non native fisherman for problems.

This world has gone stark raving mad if you ask me. I wish we could all get along.

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