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Metis assert right to caribou
GNWT argues group's rights are a federal responsibility

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

The GNWT's decision to exclude the North Slave Metis Alliance from the Bathurst caribou harvest this August went before the territorial court during the week of June 4.

NNSL photo/graphic

A two-year ban on harvesting the Bathurst caribou herd will be lifted July 31 and the North Slave Metis Alliance say their exclusion from the harvest by the GNWT is unconstitutional. - photo courtesy of John Nagy

"It went as well as we could have hoped for," said Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Metis Alliance. "(Our) lawyers were able to articulate to the judge the fact that the GNWT department of Environment and Natural Resources did not adequately consult with the North Slave Metis Alliance in regard to the restricted aboriginal harvest it imposed on the North Slave Metis Alliance harvesters."

Enge said the core of the issue is the GNWT did not undertake a strength of claim assessment when the North Slave Metis Alliance asked to be included in the limited caribou harvest.

He said the territorial government argued in court the situation was a land claim issue and, since land claims are the responsibility of the federal government, it was not their responsibility to conduct a strength of claim assessment. As a result, the North Slave Metis Alliance will be left entirely out of this year's caribou hunt when the two-year caribou harvesting ban lifts on July 31.

"It certainly didn't make sense to us considering they're wearing the mantle of the crown and even though they're a junior government ... they have to come out and be mature like they say they are," Enge said. "Mature enough to take on additional responsibilities from the federal government through the devolution agreement and mature enough to undertake the responsibilities they have already been afforded by the federal government."

Enge also said the North Slave Metis Alliance was not asking for a land claim negotiation.

"What we were doing was asking the Crown to live up to their responsibility to consult and accommodate us with regard to wildlife harvesting, i.e. the Bathurst caribou herd," he said.

"The matter is still before the courts," stated Judy McLinton, manager of public affairs and communications for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in an e-mail to News/North. "We cannot comment on matters before the courts."

The North Slave Metis Alliance was asking for between 50 and 75 of the 300 available caribou cards, said Enge. It's a range the alliance settled on after reading a Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board report, which stated the Yellowknives Dene First Nation only used 61 of its harvesting cards when it had been allocated 150 in the past.

Enge said Michael Miltenberger, minister of Environment and Natural Resources, sent a letter to the North Slave Metis Alliance recommending the alliance ask the Tlicho and Yellowknives Dene for a portion of their allotted 300 caribou harvesting cards.

"It was suggested in court that we were too prideful to do that," said Enge. "We found that to be insulting. We don't have to beg for our harvesting cards.

"We have an aboriginal right to harvest which is cons-titutionally protected and they shouldn't be asking us to do their job.

"They should have considered our needs and allocated us some in accordance to what would be acceptable."

Enge said last week's ruling was reserved and hopes the judge returns with a decision which directs the GNWT to "to negotiate a Bathurst caribou herd allocation" and consult and accommodate the North Slave Metis Alliance "any time (the GNWT) want to take steps that are going to affect the aboriginal rights of North Slave Metis people, whether it be harvesting rights, or devolution rights, or something along those lines."

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