June 13th, I spoke on Bill 29 which amends the Wildlife Act with changes to the approach to night hunting and to wildlife management. My comments, from Hansard, are below:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill 29. But I want first of all to make a couple of comments because we were brought back for this emergency session and we were brought back for an emergency session to deal with financial matters because there are significant financial matters that are not completed.
There is a BITSA bill, which has not been presented. There are a number of budget steps that have to be completed. There is Interim Supply that will be required. All these matters need to be completed and yet we are dealing with this bill, Bill 29, and although we see this as a significant bill, there are elements of it which clearly are not ready for the stage where this bill should be.
And so the government would have been wisest to deal with the financial matters that we had this emergency session called for and instead of dealing with this bill, which, in fact, as it's presented to us, is clearly in a number of elements not really ready to be the sort of bill that it should be.
I hope that the government will start addressing the financial matters. They are clearly important that the government has the authority through the Interim Supply. It is clearly important that we complete the concurrence. I–we have additional questions if the Minister of Finance (Mr. Friesen) particularly would come forward because, you know, these are–this was an emergency session to deal with financial matters. So it would be appropriate that we are asking some questions of the Minister of Finance in concurrence, and, hopefully, that will happen soon.
The lack of preparedness of the government with regard to the BITSA bill is somewhat surprising given the stage we are at in terms of when the budget was introduced and the normal process that we have followed on most occasions in the past in having the BITSA bill here. Given what has happened in terms of the additions to the BITSA bill in past years, it is natural that members of the opposition, members of our Liberal Party, are somewhat skeptical of what the government may or may not put in the BITSA bill, and so it is important that we have the BITSA bill and that we deal with it so that we can move forward with the overall business of this Chamber.
Now, I want to deal with a number of items in Bill 29. The first of these is the issue of safety. And we clearly see safety as an important issue. It is important that all hunting, whoever is doing the hunting in Manitoba, is approaching this with a strong view of safety. And, Madam Speaker, there are clearly rules for the handling of firearms, and these firearms safety measures have–which–some of which are provincial, some of which are federal–are clearly there and have been in place for some time.
It is an issue of safety which crosses the background of the individual. We were living outside of Winnipeg, near St. François Xavier, for a fair number of years, and adjacent to us there was some bush where there were deer from time to time. We decided after a number of years there that the wisest matter was to stay out of the bush during hunting season just because of concerns over safety. I think that we are probably not alone. We had, indeed, some concerns that there were people who were, on occasion, hunting before–or, in what would be called night hunting. And that would be defined as hunting beginning in the–later than 30 minutes after sunset and before 30 minutes before sunrise.
Madam Speaker, of the individuals who were of concern, none of those was indigenous individuals. And it–we have to be very careful when we address this that we are addressing this not with a racialized bias, because sometimes people in the indigenous community feel that they are being singled out or targeted. Indeed, the Premier (Mr. Pallister) spoke in a very unfortunate fashion about some–at one point about this bill being racially motivated in some way. Clearly, this needs to be a bill which is about safety, but which is about how all people hunt, and it is not a bill, and should not be a bill, which targets specific groups of people.
The bill, in that respect, does–and appropriately–recognize that there are indigenous hunting rights. And in that sense, it is important that those hunting rights are continued to be recognized. It is also important that there be appropriate and very substantial consultation and discussion with indigenous people all over Manitoba–the First Nations, Metis, Inuit–so that there has been adequate description of the sort of approach that the government was going to take and adequate ability of people in communities all over Manitoba, including First Nation, Metis and Inuit, to be able to have input.
Now I will talk specifically about some areas. The government has decided that there should be a division between north and south in Manitoba, and that division seems to have some reasonable perspective, but–and some reasonable rationale overall. But there is a considerable concern about where precisely the boundaries are drawn and, in fact, my colleague, the MLA from Kewatinook, has been trying to get a larger resolution map so that she can determine which community specifically in Kewatinook are included in the northern area and which in the southern area, and that actually is very important.
Indeed, it is important that we, as MLAs, know which communities, but it's also important that the government has, in fact, gone out and talked with people in communities about where that line should be drawn, to ask people if they would like to be included in the northern or in the southern area of Manitoba, and this is the first area where one would have expected that the government would have had some substantial consultation, but there doesn't appear to be any consultation having occurred at all with regard to communities to decide and help them come to a suggestion or have input into consideration of whether they'd be considered in the North or in the south of Manitoba.
And, because of the different ways in which the North and the south have been handled, this is clearly an aspect which should have been discussed with communities before the line was drawn. And we are not sure why the government has not discussed this matter with communities in terms of where the line is drawn, but it is the first of a number of areas where it seems to me and to us in the Liberal Party this government could have done a much better job and why this bill, as it's being brought forward, has been brought forward in a premature way before having the discussions and the consultations which we would have had expected.
With regard to these consultations, I had asked at–in questions around this bill for the minister to indicate who she had consulted with, and the minister replied, and I quote: We sent letters out to every chief in Manitoba.
Well, Madam Speaker, I would have expected at a minimum that the minister would have tabled that letter so that all would be clear. We would like to know whether that was the same letter to all chiefs, whether it was a form letter that went out to everybody or whether it was an individualized letter.
Did that letter address whether the community was being considered for the northern part or the southern part of the province? Did the issue of structuring the advisory committee or committees, was that part of what was in the letter? We don't have that letter tabled and it would have been helpful to have that letter tabled and put forward in the Legislature and so that some sort of a judgment could be made in terms of the value of that letter and the meaning of that letter as part of the consultation.
Did the minister invite the chief to be a part of the meeting or meetings? Again, we don't know because the letter wasn't tabled and we don't have it in hand.
There are clearly big differences in wildlife populations and wildlife managements in the North of Manitoba and in the south. In the south, for instance, we might be dealing with an area with a lot of white-tail deer, but in an area which may have very few to rare moose, but in the North, the–there are few white-tail deer and lots and lots of moose. And, clearly, the management of the two species is being done in quite a different fashion, and right now there are some major concerns about moose populations.
So, clearly, if this was going to be a valid attempt at consultation, it would have been a letter which talked about these specific wildlife species–and the minister said iconic species, so we include, therefore, at least, iconic fish species like pickerel and northern pike, and we would include iconic bird species that may not be hunted–birds, for example, like the bald eagle. And–so that–clearly, there are significant issues which would vary from community to community, and one would have expected if this was the proper approach to consultation, that not only would it have been a letter which was preliminary to a meeting, but it was also a letter which was individualized in terms of the individual community–their needs, their concerns, their geographic locations and the individual species which may be of concern to the advisory committee or committees.
And so we are left at this point with the appearance that sending out a letter was not sufficient consultation. It might be a lead-up to consultation, but it was not–be considered a consultation. We don't even know that all the chiefs actually received the letters. And so once again, we have a situation where, based on the evidence that we have at the moment, the decision to bring this bill forward was premature.
And, thirdly, I want to talk about the co‑management approach that is being put forward in this bill. It is said, in 88.1, that the minister may appoint persons to a shared management committee that will make recommendations to the minister on measures to conserve and manage a specified species of wildlife in an area designated by the minister.
Now, on her question and her response to a question, I had asked a question earlier on in the debate on this bill to the minister, about the shared management committee or committees. And the minister said, I am open to suggestions. It appears that there are a lot of details of the shared management committee. In fact, as I recall, the minister had said that she didn't want to do–get too far down the road; she didn't want to say must appoint because she still had to consult with people in the First Nations and Metis and Inuit community and the–here is another area of concern.
We would have expected a bill like this to have details of the shared management committee or committees laid out and that the minister would have had some consultation with the individuals in various parts of Manitoba, with all the chiefs and others who are involved here, and so that there would've been a proposal which was much clearer and–in terms of what was going to happen.
I am personally concerned that the word may appoint persons to a shared manage committee means something less than a full commitment to having such shared-management committee or committees, and that the opportunity here would be to have a shared-management committee or committees, which could have a major impact on the management of wildlife and fisheries. The minister says this covers 'incourt'–iconic species and indeed species which are not necessarily hunted so that the shared-management committee, it appears, because it's dealing with iconic species, has a broader range of potential input than just dealing with the species which are hunted.
In this context, let us talk for a moment about the fisheries, which would be an important area of concern which could be dealt with at the shared‑management committee given that a number of fish species are certainly iconic in our province.
We have reports, which go back a number of years, saying that we have the worst managed fisheries on our three largest lakes. The worst managed fisheries–I think it was in the world–but certainly it was worst-managed fisheries I think in at least North America. And that was a pretty black mark on this province.
We know very well that since 1960, under both Conservative and NDP governments, this province has failed badly in managing the fishery on Lake Winnipegosis. This suggests a critical need for a partnership with indigenous people in the Lake Winnipegosis basin in managing properly this fishery.
Now the minister has talked elsewhere, has committed, has promised, has said she's already working on it–a eco-certification of fisheries like Lake Winnipegosis, and it would be important to know how this process, which is in this bill, is going to work in the process eco-certification. If she's setting up two separate processes, is this a process that will work in both areas? More questions which are not answered, and more reasons to believe that it was premature to bring this bill forward.
We know that there have been also significant concerns about the management on–and some of the species on Lake Manitoba, and certainly there have been some widespread concerns on Lake Winnipeg with the algae blooms and zebra mussels, et cetera.
Mr. Dennis Smook, Acting Speaker, in the Chair
Are these shared-management committees going to be set up in different parts of the province to look at different areas? Are they going to be a single shared-management committee? The–I asked in question, would it be the minister's objective to have one shared-management committee for the whole province or would they be different ones in different areas of the province?
The minister appears not to be sure what her plans are. She says I'm certainly open to suggestions. It would've been valuable if the minister had conducted the sort of–a consultation which would be able to give her feedback and input onto critical questions like this so that this effort could move forward.
The options in terms of the function of the shared-manage committee are considerable. It has significant potential. One would hope that the optimum operation of shared management committee or committees would provide us much better management of, for example, moose populations. We know that under the previous NDP government that they weren't adequately doing regular surveys, and they weren't adequately having a substantive partnership with indigenous people.
And so the result was that we continue even today, as I understand it, to have concerns about our moose populations and that, clearly, to come back to the committee or committees, moose populations are important in northern parts of the province, but not in–so much in, say, southern parts of the province.
So, if you're going to have a committee which deals with the management of moose, you want to make sure it has substantial numbers of representatives from the areas where moose populations are in concern.
In a–in an era, for instance, with caribou, there is ome interesting and helpful work being done, for example, in the Interlake where DNA samples and DNA testing is being used to give an understanding of the size of the Interlake caribou population. To what extent will the shared management committee have the ability to make recommendations which would be implemented in terms of monitoring populations, in terms of using both traditional knowledge and sophisticated technological approaches–in some cases might include things like drones–to be able to assess these populations. And certainly one would hope that the shared management committee, if it were to be there–the government says may–or committees–that there is the potential for very significant and helpful co-management.
But the government has not done, to this point, the adequate consultation, got the adequate homework to know even how many shared- management committee or committees there would be, as well as precisely how this committee would work, and those kinds of details would clearly be very important to have in hand.
Now, there's one other area of significance that I want to talk about, and that is that, in this bill, it deals with spotlighting and night hunting. And, if we look at section 12(2), Conduct deemed to be night hunting, a person is deemed to be hunting at night if they are (a) they, or another person in their company, directs an artificial night–light at night into an area where a vertebrate animal may reasonably expected to be found; (b) they are in possession of a firearm or have already access to a firearm; and–and is important–their firearm is loaded or they have ready access to ammunition for their firearm.
There is implication in the way this bill is put together that all night hunting is done by spotlighting. I've discussed this matter with the MLA for Kewatinook. The traditional approach to night hunting was to be using the light of the moon, not to be using spotlighting, and, indeed, it is important to distinguish between spotlighting and night hunting, and yet this bill tries to lump them together and in the attempt that has been made to categorize the nature of night hunting, and the Premier (Mr. Pallister) has tried to imply that night hunting is really being done just or primarily by indigenous people while, in fact, he has not much evidence to support his case. And there is evidence, indeed, that others are involved in night hunting as well and in spotlighting.
So we need to be careful in terms of how we link things together and in terms of the implications of certain aspects of this bill in implying that spotlighting and night hunting are the same.
Mr. Speaker, let me bring my remarks to a conclusion. As I have said, safety is important. It is important to all of us. And we need to recognize that. That there are aspects of this bill, as I have outlined, which clearly are not fully developed, and the aspects where the consultations that have been done to date were not sufficient in areas such as where the boundaries would be set between the North and south divisions of Manitoba, in areas like the matter of the letter-based consultation process that the minister engaged in–what was in the letter, how many people did she actually meet with and not just send letters to, in the development of the approach to co-management or shared management committees.
We should have a situation where indigenous people are real partners in management, but we are not seeing that here because there is a–maybe there will be shared management committees, not must. There is no framework for how many such committees will be put in place. There is clearly not enough detail in how these committees will operate and whether, in fact, they will really be such that the committee has a major role in management or, as has happened too often in the past under various governments, that the committees are set up but they're not really listened to adequately; they're not really involved as much of they should be.
So, with those comments, Mr. Speaker, I pass on to others to continue this discussion.