Aboriginals should have say on hunting, fishing
BY WALTER CORDERY, THE DAILY NEWS JUNE 12, 2012
Sometimes you have to wonder what the powers that be are thinking or if they actually do think.
Disregarded by most Canadians as our federal MPs debate the humongous budget document Bill C-38 was a recent announcement by Environment Minister Peter Kent that Ottawa was establishing a federal advisory panel to make recommendations on hunting and fishing regulations in the country.
Kent announced the national hunting and fishing advisory panel on May 30 at a National Fish and Wildlife Congress event in Ottawa that had been organized by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
The panel is to report to Kent and consist of interested parties in both hunting and fishing.
However, Ottawa inexplicably happened to exclude the only national constituency whose members have a constitutionally protected right to hunt and fish - members of First Nations.
If any group deserves to be included, it's aboriginal Canadians. They've been stewards of this country's fish and wildlife for more than 1,000 years before Confederation. To exclude them from the panel is not only an insult to First Nations but also not very sensible.
Bill C-38 scraps or rewrites numerous environmental laws and removes federal oversight and accountability on many issues, leaving details for provinces to figure out. Yet it is Ottawa that keeps First Nations under its thumb through the Indian Act.
First Nations can't take their issues to provincial governments, they must deal with Ottawa. Yet Ottawa is excluding them from having any input into their right to hunt and fish.
If that wasn't enough of a slap in the face to common sense, the proposed advisory panel includes organizations influenced and funded by foreign sources.
The first Canadians are excluded and foreigners like Norwegian fish farmers are on the panel?
The irony would be funny if it weren't so tragic. This government has accused the Canadian environmental movement of using foreign money to attack operations like the Alberta tarsands. Still, it has no hesitation to allow foreigners to advise it on changes to hunting and fishing.
Former federal fisheries ministers, including Conservatives Tom Siddon and John Fraser, say Bill C-38 worries them because it would weaken provisions of the Species At Risk Act, which would have a direct impact on Canada's First Nations.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Kent are ignoring their warnings and seem oblivious to the concerns of First Nations organizations like the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. The UBCIC represents members of the Coast Salish First Nations, which includes the Snuneymuxw.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said "the prime minister is deluded to think that this panel will provide balance. Canadians understand that when you stack a panel with loyal, card-carrying Conservative constituents the prime minister will get the results he wants."
Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney echoed Kent's musings when he told me Ottawa wants to help industry and did not include First Nations because they have the right to hunt and fish already.
The Conservatives claim that non-aboriginal hunting and wildlife organizations have been under consulted and therefore need an open channel to Kent via the panel.
"The panel was set up to consult with licensed hunters, trappers and fishermen," said Lunney. "I'm not aware of any particular group that was intentionally excluded."
The advisory panel should include all Canadian stakeholders in hunting and fishing and pay little heed to the wishes of foreign entities. After all, fish and wildlife are a Canadian natural resource.