March 16, 2001 Halifax Herald

Deer-jacking appeal waste of tax money

Since Nova Scotia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Michael MacDonald's Mi'kmaq hunting rights decision was released, the reaction of many non-Mi'kmaqs has bordered on the hysterical. The Marshall fishing decision was another court decision where a great many People overreacted. In that case, they saw disastrous results and, in a panic, did and said things that nearly caused a race war.

The same kind of irrational reaction occurs every time we win a major court decision. One would think that by now, the forecasters of doom would have learned from experience and cooled it. In the Bernard case, they can rest assured that we're not going to head for the woods en masse to deer-jack just because a judge handed down a largely irrelevant decision.

I brand Justice MacDonald's decision irrelevant because it didn't change anything. On November 21, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a decision in the Simon case that affirmed our treaty right to hunt with whatever means we choose. The provincial government recognized this right in the Conservation Agreements we signed with it in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Deer-jacking was outlawed by mutual consent. However, when these agreements lapsed, the overwhelming majority of our People declined to jack deer. The percentage of Mi'kmaq who do so are probably no more on a per capita basis than those who do it in the white community.

Yes, my friends, white people do jack deer. At this moment, illegal venison fills many freezers. Shamefully, they also sell it. I can state with conviction that their customers aren't Mi'kmaq.

I say all this not to offer a defence for deer-jacking, because I don't think anybody in this day and age need stoop to it. If not working, there are social support benefits available to tide one over. In contrast, when I was young, deer-jacking was often necessary to alleviate hunger. Anyhow, the really poor couldn't afford the equipment needed today to engage in it.

Now to deal with the near hysteria that erupted after MacDonald's decision. How dangerous is deer-jacking? Well, during my 62 years on Mother Earth, I don't recall one instance where anyone has been killed or wounded because of it. In comparison, hunting during daylight hours has caused many deaths and injuries. In fact, overly enthusiastic hunters have on occasion even shot cars in broad daylight. Because so many of these types roam the woods, I rarely go for a walk in them during deer season. If night hunting is so dangerous, why permit it? Under the Wildlife Act, licences can be obtained to hunt several species at night with lights and dogs.

Now let’s exam how sanity can be brought to the situation. I can say with certainty that Nova Scotia's decision to appeal is not the way to do it. The chances of success are extremely slim and the cost to the taxpayers will be huge. What is needed is a proactive, joint management approach.

To get the ball rolling, the province should invite the Chiefs to an agreed location for a meeting, and work out an agreement with them to ban deer-jacking. We're reasonable people with reasonable goals. Instead of playing to the old stereotype views that demonized our ancestors, which the Europeans invented as a means to give them an excuse to steal everything, the government should try the reasonable path.

Such an agreement need not have unanimous approval from the Bands. This may come as a surprise to federal and provincial authorities, but the treaties don't belong to bands or individuals; they belong to the Mi'kmaq First Nation. As we haven't in place a central government to deal with universal issues such as treaty rights at this time, the Chiefs would have to be considered a quasi one.

Therefore, because there are thirteen chiefs in Nova Scotia, the benchmark for an absolute majority among them for legitimizing an agreement could be set at eight. Their agreement would make it binding on all. Expecting 100% agreement is unreasonable and is probably unattainable in most cases. Why expect us to have such, when its not expected of Canada and the provinces? The Constitution, to preclude the possibility of a stalemate, has a formula for amending which allows for less-than-unanimous consent.

This leads to a need to deal with a falsity that the feds have been promoting widely - the incorrect proposition that Mi'kmaq and other First Nations communities are “First Nations.” These are not First Nations, but First Nation communities. The Mi'kmaq bands collectively are a First Nation. Ditto for the Maliseet, Mohawk, Cree and the other thirty or so. There are not 630 distinctive First Nations across the country. Why Band Chiefs continue to participate in this charade is beyond me. Even the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the unity of a First Nation. If it hadn't, then the Simon decision would just apply to Shubenacadie, the Marshall to Membertou, etc.

The time has come for reasonable people to set aside prejudices and set down at a table to began to search for an enlightened way to solve these problems. Trying only to manage them, with the hope that somehow they will disappear, certainly hasn't got us anywhere and never will. Acrimony can be ended for all time with a comprehensive treaty and aboriginal rights agreement. Courts are not the answer!

Daniel N. Paul


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