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Tlicho want new caribou talks

Andrew Livingstone
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 29, 2010

BEHCHOKO/RAE-EDZO - The Tlicho government wants an adjournment on the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resource Board's decision on caribou hunting restrictions so it can go back to the drawing board with the territorial government over two disputed recommendations limiting aboriginal hunting.

John B. Zoe, special adviser to the Tlicho government, said the fourth and fifth recommendations of the proposal which would stop all hunting of Bathurst caribou cows and limit the bull caribou harvest for aboriginals is a "gaping hole" and more time is needed to deal with it.

"I think this process became flawed right at the outset," he said, adding he didn't feel comfortable with the board making a decision on something not fully agreed upon by the Tlicho and territorial governments. "It's been flawed by new information like the ban. Everyone is talking about it, so a lot of concentration was taken away from what we were trying to achieve here.

"We couldn't do anything in our community to talk about the joint proposal without having the things we have nothing to do with come in and invade our privacy of discussion."

Whati elder Jimmy B. Rabesca spoke Tuesday, along with a half dozen other elders, about the importance of working together to come to an agreement. He said if the GNWT hadn't gone ahead with the Jan. 1 no hunting zone, then things might have been different.

"If we work well together, there wouldn't be (so) much commotion about it," Rabesca said through an interpreter. "We don't want to go without food."

Behchoko chief Clifford Daniels said he wasn't pleased with the way the hunting ban was imposed, adding community members and elders became enraged with the Tlicho community chiefs and he said this is because of a lack of communication on the part of the GNWT.

"If we're going to support one another we need to listen to one another," he said in his traditional language.

Referring to the Tlicho Agreement, Zoe said the two issues of restricting aboriginal hunting need to be agreed upon by both parties because, ultimately, it's the reason the agreement was signed.

"It is a recognition of our language, culture and way of life," Zoe said. "It's to ensure that what we had before and what we understood are built into the management plans and future regulatory actions that are taken, to take into consideration what was there before. That means building in meaningful traditional knowledge into these plans."

Zoe said the current proposal doesn't allow for the implementation of the rights laid out in the agreement, which came into affect in 2005.

"It only allows the status quo system of management to go through the system we have now and we will spit it out at the end and we still won't have a consensus.

"Those sections require a lot of collaboration with the elders to pull out the traditional knowledge to ensure that it fits into a management plan and future regulatory actions. That's what the Tlicho agreement is about," said Zoe.

Tlicho Grand Chief Joe Rabesca said action needs to be taken right away to deal with the dwindling herd.

"We all must take responsibility and do what is right to save the caribou and give them a chance to recover," Rabesca said. "We must show the world we are truly stewards of the land."

On March 22, the GNWT said it would agree to an allowable harvest of 500 caribou a year from the Bathurst herd, but said any more than that and the herd could face an even further decline. However, when asked if the Tlicho would be willing to share any allowable harvest agreed upon, legal representatives for the Tlicho government said the Tlicho agreement sets out priority on who should get to hunt in times of management action and resident and outfitters are the first to go. Zoe said whatever problems outfitters and resident hunters have with the proposal isn't something they will respond to.

The five-day hearings wrapped up March 26 in Behchoko.

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