B.C. to Reduce Hunting and Allow Resource Extraction
A British Columbia Supreme Court ruling in June 2021 (Yahey v British Columbia) found the B.C. government had breached its Treaty responsibilities to Blueberry River First Nations by allowing resource extraction and other development on their territory that caused ongoing cumulative impacts affecting their Treaty rights.
It was a landmark ruling. It was the first time a court ruled that treaty rights had been breached due to the cumulative impacts of developments. Recently, the B.C. government proposed substantial reductions to hunting in the province, saying that the changes will work towards addressing its Treaty violations.
But was hunting ever an issue?
For more content on this post, check out Episode 15 – Outdoor Narratives, Adventures, and Joy and Episode 17 – The HSUS Black Bear Petition of the Hunt To Eat Show.
Agreement Between B.C. and First Nations
The Yahey v British Columbia ruling had implications for some massive resource extraction and development projects in B.C., including the $16 billion Site C dam project that First Nations in B.C. have long opposed. The ruling required the B.C. government to negotiate with Blueberry River First Nations on managing development in their traditional territory.
The court was absolutely right to determine the B.C. government had violated the rights of Treaty 8 First Nations and require further negotiation. (For a great analysis of the case and the history of treaty infringement legal precedents in Canada, check out The University of Calgary Faculty of Law online blog.) The court decision required the government to reach a satisfactory agreement with Blueberry River within six months. If they couldn’t, the government would be prohibited from permitting further industrial activity in Blueberry’s traditional territory.
In October 2021, the B.C. government announced that they reached an agreement in negotiations with Blueberry River First Nations on forestry and oil and gas development in Blueberry’s traditional territory.
As part of the agreement, the B.C. government will commit $65 million to support both ecological restoration and Indigenous ways of life.
The government will also permit 195 forestry and oil and gas projects in the region. On the other hand, the B.C. government has proposed substantial cuts to licensed hunting opportunities.
Proposed Hunting Regulation
The B.C. government recently posted a proposed hunting regulation change for the Region of 7B Peace (Regulation #2023-07-03) in the northeastern part of the province. The proposed regulation would implement the following changes starting in the 2022 hunting season:
- Reduce the licensed moose harvest by 50%
- Convert all remaining moose licenses to Limited Entry Hunts (LEH)
- Close the licensed caribou hunt for the region.
The regulation proposal claims that the proposed changes “are aimed at addressing the ability of Treaty 8 First Nations to continue their way of life and begin to address the impacts of industrial development of the rights guaranteed in this Treaty.”
Governments must do better to respect Treaty and other rights of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples in Canada have Constitutionally protected hunting, fishing, and trapping rights. Further, several Supreme Court of Canada decisions have articulated the nature of these rights and the circumstances in which they apply. If we need to change hunting regulations to ensure that governments and the non-Indigenous Canadian public uphold our Treaty obligations with regards to Indigenous rights, then we must support that. If we need to adjust hunting, fishing, and trapping regulations for conservation reasons, then we must also support that.
“The province seems willing to negotiate licensed BC hunters away in favour of Site C, logging, and oil and gas.”B.C. Wildlife Federation
In this case, the proposed reduction in licensed harvest is not addressing identified conservation or overharvest concerns. Large development projects, such as the Site C dam, will certainly have impacts on wildlife, including endangered bats, bull trout, and bird species. But it is unclear how reducing moose and caribou hunting will mitigate the environmental impacts of B.C.’s development projects.
The B.C. government has been heavily criticized for its management of resource extraction and poor record of biodiversity protection. Organizations such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation and the B.C. chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation feel the B.C. government appears to be negotiating away well-managed and regulated hunting in exchange for forestry and oil and gas permitting.
Here’s Jesse Zeman, Executive Director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation:
While the government agreed to the proposed regulation in closed negotiations, it is now open for public engagement. You can let the B.C. government know whether you support or oppose the proposed changes to hunting management.
Remember, this issue is about the B.C. government prioritizing resource extraction and development over the protection of biodiversity or maintenance of hunting opportunities. As Canadians, we all have Treaty obligations and it is our collective Constitutional and moral responsibility to uphold those obligations. I stand in solidarity with the First Nations communities who held the B.C. government accountable for its actions.
Currently, the Peace-Liard River region supports the highest moose densities in B.C.
If the B.C. government continues to permit irresponsible industrial activity in high density wildlife habitat and implement weak and ineffectual conserved area plans throughout the province, it will continue to harm wildlife and it will have long-term negative implications for biodiversity.
When a court finds that a Canadian government has violated its Treaty obligations in its management of industrial activity or wildlife, and that government continues to permit industrial activity, that is cause for concern as to the government’s motivations and whether it is truly committed to either biodiversity protection or Reconciliation.
In the background document of the proposal, the government says that the current proposal is “one part of a broader package of actions specific to improving wildlife stewardship, upholding Treaty rights, and habitat conservation and the future of resource management.”
However, reducing harvest when there is no identifiable conservation concern or evidence that this will mitigate the recognized impacts of resource extraction is irresponsible management of resources, human actions, and wildlife.
I call on the B.C. government to uphold its responsibilities to both its Treaties and international commitments to biodiversity protection and sustainable resource management. I also call on them to prioritize science-based wildlife management and facilitate hunting opportunities for populations that can support those opportunities, which is the case in Region 7B.
The regulation proposal is open for public engagement until March 23, 2022. Here are a few ways you can get involved in this issue.
- Head to the B.C. Wildlife Federation website and send a letter to elected representatives in B.C.: https://bcwf.bc.ca/peace-region-hunting-regulations/
- Register for an account with the B.C. Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website and tell them whether you support or oppose the change and why: https://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/ahte/content/close-peace-caribou-hunts-and-reduce-peace-moose-hunts-region-wide
- Listen to Episode 63 of the Focus Hunting podcast for an overview of the issue with Jesse Zeman: