An aboriginal hunter denounces the “colonialism” of Quebec

Born of an Innu mother and an Abenaki father, an Aboriginal hunter is forced to choose one of his two origins to be authorized to exercise his right to hunt on a specific territory. He sees it as a new concrete example of an obstacle to reconciliation.

“It’s as if the government were telling us: ‘You follow your mother’s or your father’s culture, but you can’t be both,’” says Gerry Paul with a sigh of discouragement.

This father considers hunting as a cultural and spiritual subsistence activity. “Through the hunting initiation sessions, I pass on our customs, our rituals and our legends to my children,” explains Mr. Paul. However, for the past few years, he has devoted his free time to a legal battle against the provincial government.

Etienne Briere

Gerry Paul who introduces his son Kenzo to hunting.

Criminally charged

On several occasions in 2015 and 2016, Mr. Paul was arrested by wildlife conservation officers while hunting on territories belonging to the Abenaki nation, in the Odanak sector, approximately 30 kilometers to the east. of Sorel-Tracy. He was given hefty statements of offense, the total sum of which amounted to several thousand dollars.

According to a specific agreement concluded between the band councils of the sector and the government of Quebec, only the Aboriginals registered on the list of Abenaki members have the right to hunt on this territory. If Mr. Paul wants his name to appear on the Abenaki list, he will have to give up his Innu status and access to this ancestral territory.

“Both the laws of Quebec and those of Ottawa ignore international marriages. It is therefore impossible to be recorded in two bands. They want to standardize us and restrict us to specific perimeters”, denounces Gerry Paul.

By proving his genealogical belonging to the Abenaki nation and asserting the ancestral rights recognized by federal law, Mr. Paul convinced the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) to withdraw the charges and cancel the statements of offense . The hunter regrets, however, that he was still arrested by game wardens in autumn 2021.

Three other hunters, who wish to remain anonymous since their case is before the courts, claim to have experienced similar problems.

Source: Department of Natural Resources Canada

An ignorance of manners and customs

These situations clearly illustrate the government’s ignorance of Aboriginal mores and customs, argues historian Eric Pouliot-Thisdale. “In the St. Lawrence Valley, a significant number of Aboriginal people are mixed race. You can’t label them so simplistically, saying, ‘If you’re recorded in this band, you’re from this one nation,’” he explains.

This control of the territory was affirmed in 1851, with the creation of reserves. “It’s colonialism that continues and makes reconciliation difficult on the ground,” adds Mr. Pouliot-Thisdale, himself registered as a Mohawk, but also a descendant of the Innu and Abenaki nations.

The historian believes that game wardens and officials should have better historical and legal training. He is pessimistic: “The First Nations represent barely 2 to 3% of the population of Quebec. We are clearly not a priority.”

Etienne Briere

Ministry response forests

The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks indicated by email that the “surveillance carried out by wildlife protection officers […] is an essential activity […] compliance with the regulations in force and the achievement of the government’s objectives in terms of sound wildlife management”.

The ministry assured that “the State takes into account, where applicable, ancestral rights” and that “reconciliation with the Aboriginal peoples is a fundamental objective”.

– The video report at the top of the page was produced by Étienne Brière and Daphnée Hacker-B.

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