Everything you need to know about Manitoba’s plan to ban spotlight hunting

Manitoba has introduced legislation to ban spotlighting after the premier suggested the hunting technique could spark a 'race war.' Indigenous groups are not happy

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

 

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation to ban spotlighting after the premier suggested the controversial hunting technique could spark a “race war” in his province, but Indigenous groups say they were not consulted and the new bill violates their treaty rights.

“Young, Indigenous guys going out and shooting a bunch of moose because they can, because they say it’s their right, doesn’t make any sense … to me,” Brian Pallister told a few dozen party members in January 2017 in Virden, Man. And earlier this month, he announced in a speech that the Conservatives will end the “inhumane practice” known as spotlighting.

The government said there were consultations with stakeholders over two years, including with Indigenous groups. But David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, disagrees. 

“There’s going to be some serious legal issues,” he said. “There’s no government-to-government relationship discussions that was happening. So from their side they call it consultation, that’s not how you go about consultation.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the controversy around spotlighting.

Spotlighting involves using high-powered light to hunt animals, such as moose, elk and deer. The bright lights help hunters spot animals at night. Since animals don’t see the light as a threat, and instead stare at it, hunters are able to follow the eyeshine and precisely target their prey.

Why does Manitoba want to ban it?

The government considers spotlighting to be unsafe, and named the new bill The Wildlife Amendment Act — Safe Hunting and Shared Management.

Two men have been killed in recent years in night hunting accidents and livestock and buildings have inadvertently been hit by bullets travelling well beyond the reach of a spotlight.

The Manitoba Wildlife Foundation has called for a ban in the wake of deaths and close calls, like when a stray bullet went through a woman’s window in 2016, nearly hitting her as she slept.

What is the bill going to look like?

The proposed legislation would ban night hunting in southern Manitoba, except for Indigenous people who are granted a permit. They will only be able to shoot in a specific area if it doesn’t threaten the viability of the species they’re hunting.

But the government hasn’t decided what criteria would be required for the permit or where exactly night hunting would be allowed.

Consultations with rural municipalities and Indigenous groups are scheduled over the summer, said Development Minister Rochelle Squires during a news conference on May 16.

“We respect their constitutional right but we are also striving to achieve balance for public safety,” she said. This bill “will provide enforcement greater tools to go after anybody who is indeed in the forest or the field at night with a gun and ammunition and lights.”

The bill will also create a new minimum fine of $3,000 for people who go spotlight hunting without a permit.

What do Indigenous groups think about the ban?

Section 35 of the Constitution Act recognizes Indigenous rights. The Manitoba hunting guide says that in recognizing treaty rights, “status Indian hunters” do not need hunting licences and are not subject to equipment restrictions.

“They want to put us in an advisory role in providing permits to our First Nations who already have the right to hunt any time that they want,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization, who plans to challenge the bill. “They’ve tried to frame this issue as a safety issue, we’re not quite convinced that it is a safety issue. There are a few incidents that have happened, but there’s just as many incidents that can happen during the day.”

The Manitoba Metis Federation already voted last fall to ban spotlight hunting in southern Manitoba.

“(The development minister) is obviously contradicting our (Metis) laws by saying you can get a provincial permit to still hunt in the south,” Chartrand said.

For other First Nations, spotlight hunting is a means of survival — and they consider it safe if it is done properly.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said the province may believe it has completed a consultative process “but unfortunately they haven’t.”

“This bill is brought forward without our participation,” he said.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization said he does not support the proposed legislation.

“If you really want to work with us, you have to do it from the beginning. You can’t just go and move on your own and turn around and say ‘ok do you want to help with this now?’ After it’s already been done. That’s a direct infringement upon our rights,” Daniels said.

“It’s clear that there is no Indigenous representation that is standing with them on this and they are not going to get it either.”

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