Earlier this month, the province announced temporary hunting restrictions to the region that would exclude August from the 2022 hunting season and restrict the rest of the season to limited-entry hunting.
In a release, Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation, Prophet River First Nation, and West Moberly First Nations chided the province for claiming the new regulations were made “in partnership with First Nations,” a claim which the nations say is untrue.
The First Nations say they all have grave concerns about the regulations.
“The regulations create disproportionate impacts among Treaty 8 Nations and for local residents and were made in a manner that undermines the new path forward that we were promised,” the bands said in a joint statement.
For many years, the First Nations say they have expressed concerns about the cumulative effects of development throughout Treaty 8 territory, which they say interfere with their communities’ abilities to maintain their culture and ways of life.
The group says these effects arise from multiple resource sectors, including commercial and recreational hunting in Treaty No. 8.
Due to the Northeast being the only region in the province that had a region-wide open season for moose, the nations say that hunters from other areas flood the north each year, causing significant impacts on their way of life.
After a court decision last June, the province was ordered to address these cumulative effects.
“Our nations, alongside other Treaty 8 First Nations, engaged the province to address those impacts by closing the open seasons in a manner that would balance non-indigenous hunting in the territory with protections for our treaty right to hunt,” said a joint release.
According to the First Nations, their preference was to safeguard local hunters from the effects of the closure by providing priority allocation of tags, adding that they sought ways to permit guide outfitters to be left whole.
“The recent amendments to the hunting regulations do not represent what we had hoped to achieve when we entered into these discussions with the province. Right from the start, we presented options to the province for limiting impacts on local hunters. They were all rejected,” Doig River Chief Trevor Makadahay said.
“We are disappointed that the province rejected our recommendations and unilaterally adopted new regulations that retain a small concentration of open seasons,” the bands said.
In the future, the nations say that they are committed to finding solutions that will protect the livelihoods and ways of life for residents while also providing for the meaningful exercise of its members’ Treaty rights.
“We urge B.C. to take seriously its commitments under Treaty No. 8 and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to meaningfully uphold the rights of First Nations to regulate activities in their territories,” the nations said.
“Going forward, we hope that the province will learn from this mistake, listen to Treaty 8 First Nations and commit to a real Nation-to-Nation relationship. If the true spirit and intent of Treaty 8 is upheld, then all Treaty people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will benefit,” Prophet River Chief Valerie Askoty said.
The B.C. government officially announced changes to hunting regulations earlier this month. However, the issue initially sparked outrage earlier this year, culminating in death threats directed at Blueberry River First Nations Chief Judy Desjarlais.
In a May 19th release, the province said that the changes were “informed by extensive engagement with the public, First Nations, the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia and the B.C. Wildlife Federation.”
The BCWF and the B.C. Liberals have also been vocal about their feelings regarding the regulation changes, accusing the province of making wildlife conservation decisions that are not “based on science.”