The Manitoba government introduced Bill 29 – the wildlife amendment act (safe hunting and shared management), which would create a safer and more ethical hunting environment for all Manitobans, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires announced today.
“We have seen deaths, serious injuries and far too many close calls as a result of unsafe night hunting practices in Manitoba,” Squires said. “We also know blinding an animal in the dead of the night for the purpose of an easy kill is neither safe nor sustainable.”
Some practises of night hunting, particularly spotlighting – a practice that shines a bright light into an animal’s eyes to paralyze it – would be regulated under this bill, added Squires. The bill would regulate night hunting to ensure the sustainability of Manitoba’s big game population.
In addition to redefining night hunting, this bill would ensure that for the third year in a row the government would be increasing resources and providing better tools to the province’s conservation officers to keep Manitobans safe from dangerous and illegal hunting practices, the minister noted.
The bill would take into account and respect the constitutionally protected right of Indigenous hunting at night, while balancing the priorities of public safety, ethical treatment of animals and conservation, Squires said, adding the proposed legislation was prepared after extensive consultations with Indigenous communities and representatives, various rural municipalities, agricultural producers, and wildlife groups and organizations representing hunters and outfitters.
“Manitoba recognizes the constitutionally protected right of Indigenous hunting at night, which is why our government undertook an extensive consultation process with First Nations and Métis communities, Indigenous organizations, elders and non-Indigenous hunters, and their respective organizations to fully inform the development of this legislation,” said Squires. “This bill carefully balances hunting rights while making public safety a top priority.”
Safe hunting, land access and shared management were consistent themes raised throughout the consultation and engagement process with stakeholders. The proposed legislation would allow Indigenous hunters to exercise their right to hunt at night in designated areas by obtaining a night hunting permit. The creation of this no-cost night hunting permit would allow an Indigenous harvester to exercise the right to hunt, but focus the activity in areas where the risk to landowners or their property is minimized. Night hunting would only be allowed if the hunt does not threaten the viability of the species being hunted.
“Night hunting is a dangerous practice. It’s not ethical and it’s not fair to the animal. I welcome changes to make it safer and more respectful,” said Nancy Nepinak-Mckay, an elder from the Pine Creek First Nation.
In addition, the legislation would allow the province to create shared management committees, bringing Indigenous communities, landowners, hunters and outfitters together to make recommendations for conservation and management of wildlife in areas of concern. It also proposes a process to foster relationships and mutual understanding between Indigenous harvesters and private landowners to improve land access for Indigenous hunters to harvest on private land during the daylight.
“Our government is working to advance reconciliation, by fostering mutually respectful relationships between the Crown and Indigenous peoples, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous harvesters as well as private landowners,” said Squires. “But I want to be clear. Our priority here is the safety of the Manitoba public. I believe this bill strengthens that safety while respecting traditional rights.”
It is imperative to move this proposed legislation forward during this current legislative session in order for it to take effect in time for the next hunting season, Squires noted.
“I urge all parties to support this important bill, which provides a mechanism for all parties to work collaboratively to promote and protect the right to hunt for subsistence, and enables all parties to move forward together by developing processes and regulations to sustain quotas, and manage wildlife,” said Squires. “This bill must balance rights of Indigenous peoples with wildlife management and sustainability. However, of paramount importance is the safety of Manitobans. I think we have achieved that balance.”