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B.C. updating wildlife law to expand Indigenous independence

’Sheltering’ agreements to allow guest hunters into territory
Moose browse on twigs during winter. Predators, snowmobile trails and resource roads have affected moose and caribou populations across B.C. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)

The B.C. government’s latest step in aligning its laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is an update of the Wildlife Act to incorporate native hunting traditions.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy tabled amendments in the B.C. legislature Wednesday that would require wildlife managers to consider traditional Indigenous knowledge in their decisions on hunting permits.

“The Wildlife Act has not been amended to address Indigenous values since 1966,” Conroy told the legislature March 9. “The proposed amendments authorize governments to enter into sheltering agreements with first nations, which will recognize the traditional practice where a host first nation permits members of another first nation to harvest wildlife within the host’s traditional territory.”

The ministry said in a statement that the sheltering provision brings B.C. laws into alignment with Indigenous laws, and is expected to improve the certainty of wildlife and hunting data collection.

Hunting and fishing rights are included in Crown treaties, but much of the province is not covered by them. The latest changes come after talks with the B.C. First Nations Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum, and court cases that have upheld Indigenous hunting rights.

“Generations of traditional knowledge about the hunting grounds, a court case that took three years to get to the Supreme Court and after all this time, our rights are confirmed,” said Chief Fred Robbins of the Esk’etemc Band, with 19 reserves based at Alkali Lake in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region.

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