WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government has introduced legislation to ban hunting with spotlights at night but some Indigenous groups say that infringes on their constitutional rights.
The proposed legislation would ban night hunting in southern Manitoba, except for Indigenous people who are granted a permit. They will only be able to shoot in a specific area if it doesn’t threaten the viability of the species they’re hunting.
“It will provide enforcement greater tools to go after anybody who is indeed in the forest or the field at night with a gun and ammunition and lights,” Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said Wednesday.
The government hasn’t decided what criteria would be required for the permit or where exactly night hunting would be allowed. Consultations with rural municipalities and Indigenous groups are scheduled over the summer.
The bill would also ban hunting at night in northern Manitoba, but Indigenous people with treaty rights would be exempt and would not need a permit.
Squires said the government respects the constitutional right of Indigenous people to hunt without a license and the legislation allows for a “very limited and very safe night hunt.”
Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization said he does not support the proposed legislation.
“They want to put us in an advisory role in providing permits to our First Nations who already have the right to hunt any time that they want,” he said.
Daniels said they told the government they wanted to talk hunting safety and proposed First Nations regulate night hunting permits.
“It’s clear that there is no Indigenous representation that is standing with them on this and they are not going to get it either,” he said. “They really missed an opportunity here to work with us.”
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said the province may believe it has completed a consultative process “but unfortunately they haven’t.”
“This bill is brought forward without our participation,” Dumas said.
The Manitoba Metis Federation voted to ban spotlighting in southern Manitoba last fall. Federation president David Chartrand said he has not heard from the province about the ban since last September.
The government said there were consultations with stakeholders over two years, including with Indigenous groups.
Premier Brian Pallister promised to ban the “inhumane practice” of spotlight hunting — which involves using bright lights to help hunters see animals at night — in a speech to party faithful last week. Last year, he said the issue was becoming a race war with some Indigenous hunters.
“Young, Indigenous guys going out and shooting a bunch of moose because they can, because they say it’s their right, doesn’t make any sense … to me,” Pallister told a few dozen party members in January 2017 in Virden, Man.
Two men have been killed in recent years in night hunting accidents and livestock and buildings have inadvertently been hit by bullets travelling well beyond the reach of a spotlight.
Rural Municipality of Sifton Coun. Scott Phillips said the legislation will help conservation officers stop dangerous hunting practices.
“It’s for all hunters, it doesn’t matter what race, colour you are. It’s illegal for everybody now and that’s safe for all Manitobans,” he said.
“We are all the same colour at night and you don’t know where the bullets are going. So, I’m just glad the Manitoba government is going to do what’s right for all of Manitoba.”