I am back home after spending two days and one night on the front lines of the Anishnabe land defenders camps in what the government calls the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve.
The Anaisnabe communities of Mitchikanibikok (Lac Barrière) and Kitigan Zibi are calling for a five-year moratorium on moose hunting on their territory. Despite their repeaded calls, the Quebec government continues to issue hundreds of moose hunting permits to non-indigenous sport hunters. They are doing this despite the fact that their own data, as well as the observations of indigenous communities and hunters show a clear decline in the moose population.
Some of the sport hunters shoot for the thrill and leave often leave the entire moose behind without using the meat. Some take only the head to make a trophy and leave everything else behind. The indigenous hunters and their communities who rely on the moose population for survival are extremely skilled at using every single part of the animal. They respect the moose, they respect the limits of the ecosystem and they understand the importance of conservation of both the land and the moose population.
By refusing a moratorium, the government is prioritizing sport hunting over indigenous sovereignty, rights and way of life. While I was on site I observed as a group of angry non indigenous hunters blocked highway traffic for hours to protest the indigenous checkpoints. There was racism involved. Several non indigenous hunters have shown up at indigenous checkpoints angry and armed to intimidate the community members.
Tomorrow, I will be writing a letter to Pierre Dufour, Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks expressing the Green Party of Quebec’s support for a moratorium on sport moose hunting in the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. I will also be calling on the federal government to intervene in order to insure that indigenous rights are respected.
It was an honour and a privilage to be able to meet with Cassy Rat, chief of the Lac Barrière community as well as Charles Rat of the Lac Barrière band council and his wife Tina who generously shared traditional food with visitors at the camp. I got to visit my friend and ally Shannon Chief and will be publishing an interview with her and band councillor Charles Rat very soon. The community welcomed me with open arms. I would like to thank them for this warm welcome and I look forward to continuing to support them in their quest to have their territorial rights upheld, their traditional way of life protected along with the survival of the moose population on which they depend. I also had a great conversation with Gene Twenish of Kitigan Zibi on my way home.
Stay tuned for more updates on this issue as it is far from resolved. The latest news is that during a meeting this Saturday with indigenous leaders, the government refused to implement a moratorium this year or even next year. This refusal to act may propel this issue to the forefront of the movement for indigenous rights in Canada.
Leader of the Green Party of Quebec