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Updating the rules for hunters

Two-years residency, no highway corridor, less wastage wanted by First Nations -- Antoine

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Sep 14/01) - In an effort to conserve wildlife, many First Nations in the Deh Cho are in favour of retaining a two-year residency requirement for hunters, according to Jonas Antoine.

Jonas Antoine: "Sharing a renewable resource."

Antoine is the Deh Cho representative on an aboriginal advisory group working with the Department of Wildlife to revise the Wildlife Act. There had been discussion of reducing the residency requirement to just six months, but that didn't sit well with First Nations, said Antoine, who has been consulting with Deh Cho communities.

"This is ludicrous," he said. "It's only being done to appease a handful of Johnny-come-latelys. It's not the way to do it if you want to have good management."

By opening the door to more hunters, there's a risk that the finite number of caribou and moose may steadily decline, forcing them onto the endangered species list, he suggested.

There is also concern among First Nations over some hunters taking only select parts of a carcass.

"I've personally come across people in the past who were prepared to throw half a moose away," Antoine said, adding that stringent rules regarding wastage be put in place.

He also suggested that permits should be made mandatory for hunters, forcing them to acquire certification through hunting and wilderness survival courses -- hunters with certification or who meet certain residency requirements would be exempted, he said.

Another issue to be examined is hunting within the highway corridor. Due largely to aboriginal demand, a ban on hunting within a kilometre of the highway's right of way was lifted in the early 1990s, according to Antoine. Now he said most people want the corridor hunting ban reinstated for safety reasons.

"It poses an awful lot of danger," he acknowledged.

Antoine said the Wildlife Act, being GNWT legislation, is contrary to aboriginal rights. However, he agreed to work on the revisions because when the Deh Cho achieves self-government it will require some form of order and management too, he noted.

"We're looking at this as sharing a renewable resource," he said.

Within the next two months, he said he and officials from the Department of Wildlife will be conducting formal consultations within Deh Cho communities. Submissions are then to be made to the minister of RWED by mid-December, with the aim to implement any revisions to the Wildlife Act before the completion of this sitting of the legislature.

"This is something very important ... something that will be recognized by the rest of the world," Antoine said.