No First Nation on hunting, fishing panel

An advisory panel on hunting and fishing announced last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not include First Nations.

An advisory panel on hunting and fishing announced last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not include First Nations.

Ken Malloway, co-chair of the BC First Nations Fisheries Council, acknowledged the panel was designed for sport fisheries, but he said the absence of an aboriginal voice still does not bode well, given recent moves by the Conservative government on other environmental issues.

“That’s the way it feels, that’s the way it looks … it doesn’t look good for First Nations,” he said.

Earlier federal governments, both Liberal and Progress Conservative, “established advisory panels and they always included First Nations folks,” Malloway said.

“Not as many as we hoped,” he added, “but they always had (aboriginal) people on their advisory bodies.”

And given the environmental and conservation record of Canada’s aboriginal people, he said, “to be left out (of the advisory panel) is just absurd.”

Mark Strahl, Conservative MP in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, said he is “committed” to bringing the aboriginal concerns to a meeting Tuesday with Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and Environment Minister Peter Kent.

Harper announced the panel last Wednesday in light of criticism about his government’s proposed “gutting” of legislation protecting fish habitat and easing environmental regulations for oil pipeline expansion.

Harper said in a news release the new Hunting and Angling Advisory panel “will help ensure that future conservation practices — including the protection of endangered species — are based on input from Canadians who have a long tradition of conservation.”

Sto:lo fisheries advisor Ernie Crey pointed out the conservation record of First Nations, and their expert knowledge on hunting and fishing issues.

“If (Harper) doesn’t take steps to appoint aboriginal organizations to the panel, it will be missing a critically important constituency in Canada when it comes to hunting and fishing,” he said.

BCWF president Bill Bosch agreed First Nations should have a place on the panel, but added there may be other avenues to hear the aboriginal point of view.

“They should be there because we share concerns about the sustainability of fish and wildlife,” he said.

The BCWF, one of 19 groups named to the panel, worked successfully with aboriginal, sport and commercial fishermen in 2006 to reduce conflicts on the Fraser River.