BY HEATHER COLLINS
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation are at odds over the MNR’s annual aerial moose surveys currently being carried out – a project the MNR says helps keep moose populations sustainable and helps determine the number of moose hunting tags to be distributed for the 2014 hunting season.
KI has openly rejected the project, saying it infringes on Aboriginal rights.
“The right of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug to ‘manage’ and harvest moose are rights entrenched under section 35 which recognizes and affirms the rights set out in our Treaty as well as Aboriginal rights. As such, these rights have priority over all Provincial legislation,” KI Chief Donny Morris explained in a letter dated December, 2013, addressed to MNR Minister David Orazietti.
Morris goes on to say that the intent of the treaty was to co-exist and share, not to have one body controlling the other.
“This is not the first time your Ministry has launched an initiative to manage and ‘protect’ wildlife, in our homeland. Our elders tell us that in the past they were harassed by Ontario’s game wardens who impounded our boast, nets, fish, guns, traps and pelts and jailed our people: all in the name of ‘protecting’ and managing wildlife. These past actions by your officials had profound effects on our families, our culture and our identity as Aboriginal people. During those days, by simple force, your fish and game laws prevailed over our treaty right to hunt and fish and the sacred responsibilities the Creator gave our people to look after the land and animals.”
Jolanta Kowalski, Sr. Media Relations Officer for the MNR, describes the project as the MNR sees it:
“Moose aerial inventory surveys are used in Ontario and many other jurisdictions across North American moose range. The surveys are conducted each winter across Ontario as a means of estimating moose population abundance, population trends and population demographics (i.e., bull, cow and calf numbers). MNR biologists use the MAI information in conjunction with harvest and hunt related information acquired from moose hunter postcard surveys to sustainably manage moose populations and recommend the number of validation tags to be issued within each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).”
Kowalski adds that, in general, hunters are supportive of MAI surveys as they recognize the need to collect population-specific data on regular intervals.
“First Nations communities in WMU 1C were provided letters before Christmas to notify them of the survey in the unit. Staff are following up with communities in WMU 1C to discuss any questions or concerns they may have,” she adds.
KI First Nation is located about 580 km north of Thunder Bay.