WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is being criticized for saying young indigenous men with criminal records are responsible for night hunting which he previously said was fuelling a “race war.”
“Young indigenous men — a preponderance of them are offenders, with criminal records — are going off shooting guns in the middle of the night,” Maclean’s magazine quotes Pallister as saying from his vacation home in Costa Rica.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
His comments came after a speech he made last week in which he said tension surrounding night hunting is leading to a “race war.”
“Young indigenous guys going out and shootin’ a bunch of moose ’cause they can, ’cause they say it’s their right, doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said in the speech.
“This is a poor practice. A dumb practice … It should stop.
“So what are we doing? We’re organizing to bring indigenous people together and say the same thing I just said to ya, ’cause it’s becoming a race war and I don’t want that.”
The Opposition is demanding Pallister apologize for his latest comments and commit to educating himself about First Nations.
NDP legislature member Amanda Lathlin said Pallister’s comments are ignorant and feed into a dangerous stereotype of indigenous people.
“Those comments were racist and irresponsible,” said Lathlin. “He did not consult or talk to our hunters in that community. That conversation is absolutely missing.”
Olivia Baldwin-Valainis, spokeswoman for Pallister, said in an emailed statement that the province has stepped up its enforcement of laws that ban the use of bright lights to hunt at night. She said that resulted in 44 charges in 2016.
Baldwin-Valainis didn’t say how many of the people charged were indigenous or how many had criminal records.
“Reports of dangerous hunting practices have increased,” she wrote. “Two human lives have been lost, livestock have been found shot on private property and agricultural equipment, homes and buildings have been hit by stray bullets.”
She didn’t address calls for Pallister to apologize or educate himself about treaty rights.
Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox met earlier this week with reeves from several communities in western Manitoba who are pushing for a ban on indigenous night hunting. She said the government plans to bring both sides to the table in the near future to try to work out an agreement.
Non-indigenous hunters are banned from hunting at night. Indigenous hunters are allowed — supported by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling — subject to safety restrictions.
Lathlin said hunting has a long-standing and revered place in indigenous culture, as does sharing the proceeds with the community. For indigenous people, hunting is about livelihood, not sport, she said.
At a time when Canada is supposed to be working toward reconciliation with First Nations, Pallister’s comments perpetuate a negative stereotype, Lathlin suggested.
“Here I am, an aboriginal woman raising my daughters to feel pride within our culture, and yet we have the leader of Manitoba taking a step backwards in regards to who we are as people. What kind of leadership is that?”
Niigaan Sinclair, head of the native studies department at the University of Manitoba, issued a written invitation to Pallister.
“It’s evident … you don’t have a clear understanding of indigenous cultures, histories, or communities in Manitoba, treaties and the relationships we share here, or how indigenous and non-indigenous peoples can live alongside one another respectfully, mutually beneficially, and legally,” he wrote.
“I therefore offer for you to come to the University of Manitoba and our Department of Native Studies to receive the education you clearly need to make competent decisions that effect the lives of all Manitobans.
“You must learn to stop your perpetuation of ignorant, factually incorrect, and divisive statements that draw on stereotypes and incite anger and violence if for nothing else than for the benefit of our home.”