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P.A. Judge Upholds Indian Right To Hunt For Food In Wildlife Units

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1977      v07 n04 p15  
PRINCE ALBERT - The right to treaty Indians to hunt for food in the province's wildlife management units has been upheld here by a district court judge.

In a ruling handed down in early March, Judge K. Halvorson declared that wildlife management units are unoccupied Crown lands to which Indians have access under Treaty Six and the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.

In making his decision Halvorson was overturning a magistrates' court ruling which had found Walter Moosehunter of the Sturgeon Lake reserve guilty of unlawfully hunting in the Cookson Wildlife Management Unit.

Sol Sanderson, first vice-president of the FSI hailed the decision as a major step forward for Indian hunting rights.

But Sanderson also noted the court decision points the direction the province must take if it wants to put new obstacles in the way of Indian hunting.

In his written decision, the judge said the province could deprive Indians of the right to hunt in certain areas by declaring these areas game preserves.

Halvorson said the provincial government would be unilaterally altering the terms of Treaty Six "if a wildlife management unit within uninhabited Crown lands was determined to be an area where Indians cannot hunt."

"This would be tantamount to saying that the province is permitted to alter treaty rights by 'regulation'. This clearly cannot be so."

"It is interesting to note that Treaty Six specifies that 'it is subject to such regulations as may from time to time be made by her government of her Dominion of Canada'. It does not state that it is subject to the regulations of the province.

Halvorson noted if regulations made under the Game Act were to apply equally to Indians as to other citizens, "the provincial government could declare the entire province as a wildlife management unit and thereby deprive Indians of their hunting rights under the treaty and the (natural resources) agreement."

However, the judge said if the province wished to deprive Indians of the right to hunt in specific areas, it could declare them game preserves.

This would be possible because of the existence of game preserves in Saskatchewan before the transfer of natural resources to provincial jurisdiction in 1930.

To combat further possible restrictions to hunting rights, chiefs attending the All-Chiefs Conference in Saskatoon passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to place a moratorium on any legislation directly or indirectly affecting hunting rights under treaty.

The chiefs also demanded that neither the province nor the federal government introduce any bills or regulations which purport to exclude Indians from unoccupied Crown land without prior consultation with Indians.

And they demanded finally that the province establish no more game preserves.

Sanderson said Indians must not allow the province to unilaterally designate restricted hunting areas and thereby threaten Indian hunting rights.

He said the federal government in June 1976 passed into law regulations which undermined a court ruling on the Migratory Birds Act. The ruling had been favorable to Indian hunters and in effect allowed them to shoot migratory birds at all times of the year.

But the subsequent regulations dissolved the authority of the court ruling.

Sanderson said he fears moves by the province to set up game preserves could have the same effect on the Moosehunter ruling.

"So we must lobby with both levels of government to make sure we're not restricted more from hunting areas," the FSI vice-president said.