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Hunters want voice

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 31/01) - Non-aboriginal hunters say they will become second-class citizens if the recommendations of an aboriginal advisory group are accepted.

"We've obviously been left out of this," said Ray Decorby, one of 15-20 non-aboriginal hunters who attended a Monday night consultation on proposed changes to two pieces of wildlife legislation.

After remaining virtually unchanged for more than 20 years, the NWT Wildlife Act is being rewritten. The North has never had a species at risk law, the other piece of legislation being proposed. Consultation on both initiatives began a year and a half ago.

Apart from committee hearings, which will be held when and if both initiatives get into the legislative assembly, there are two weeks left for public comment on both legislative initiatives. Hunters at Northern United Place Monday took aim at the recommendations of the Wildlife Aboriginal Advisory Group. Wildlife and fisheries director Doug Stewart said the government provided WAAG between $100,000-$150,000 to participate in the review of the Act.

"It looks to me like it is placing conservation solely on the shoulders of resident hunters," said resident hunter Martin Knutson.

"Resident hunter" is the legislative term used to describe non-aboriginal hunters who have been residents of the North for two years or more. Most aboriginal residents are eligible for a general hunting licence, which includes almost no harvest limits in areas without settled land claims.

Addressing conservation measures that may be included in the act, WAAG recommended hunting restrictions be placed on non-aboriginal hunters be considered first.

Hunters at Monday night's meeting wondered where the logic was in that approach when resident and non-resident hunters account for only 10 per cent of the wildlife harvest.

Businessman Doug Witte said if the NWT hopes to attract more tourists and residents it should think twice about imposing more restrictions on resident and non-resident hunters.