BCWF Report – PQ Fish & Game Assn.
At our last General Meeting one of the members present expressed his anger and frustration about loss of his traditional moose hunt opportunity due to aboriginal priority hunting rights. As Aboriginal Relations Committee chair for the BCWF I have been involved in many cases where illegal obstruction by First Nations and supporters needed action. We were successful last year in removing a threat by a splinter group from the Tahltan First Nations. Several years prior, however a blockade on the Ealeu Lake Rd prevented access for the main part of the moose season. The Province negotiated a resolution to the problem which cost us resident hunters six weeks of open season for bull moose every season since. So much for our government being a guardian of the public right to hunt.
The problem here is that the Province is locked into a general policy of negotiation not litigation and government to government discussion with FNs. The BCWF has argued for over a decade now that “government to government” doesn’t work for us. So far not so good. We are told that we should be engaging directly with FNs on access issues but Government gives no support either with enforcement of the Wildlife Act on FN harvests or in policy that recognizes the needs of the public. In the case of blockades the RCMP will not act and if we are successful in getting a court injunction to remove the obstruction they usually refuse to enforce it.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruling that recognized aboriginal title to over seventeen hundred square kilometers of land East of Williams Lake changed things a lot. For starters resident hunters were kicked out totally by the Tsilqhot’in National Government who managed to find a way to accommodate the licenses of Guide Outfitters. The BCWF has resolved to engage FNs where possible to build relationships on common interests as the Province will not help us deal with them. We must reach out on our own. So, the Fed has since met TNG representatives and with other FNs in the Province in an effort to address problems around public access to lands for hunting before they grow into another blockade.
It is difficult to measure our success but it is imperative to forever act as the advocate for resident hunters and not give up. Some FNs are totally closed, don’t recognize Provincial or Federal Government authority even, but are often still quite respectful of the BCWF and our track record of conservation effort. Others are willing to work with us to maximize the opportunities for everyone. It is important to never quit or just retreat in anger to wallow in righteous indignation over feeling hard done by. The BCWF has very qualified people representing us in FN engagement because we are in this for the long haul.
What our children inherit depends on what we do today. If we do nothing they get nothing.
Rod Wiebe – PQF&G Assn Past President (1992 – 1998)