Wildlife Service finds widespread lawbreaking among native

spectr17

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Native guides flout game laws: wildlife agents
Undercover operation: Walpole Island reserve chief refuses to bring accused to court, wants apology

Kate Jaimet, Southam News.

OTTAWA - Undercover wildlife agents have discovered widespread law-breaking among native hunting guides on the Walpole Island First Nation reserve, the Canadian Wildlife Service alleges.

But Joseph Gilbert, chief of the reserve, says the federal wildlife agency had no right to conduct its undercover sting. Now the reserve's native police will not co-operate with the wildlife service in bringing the 12 accused guides to court, and the chief is demanding a public apology.

"They [the government] come to Walpole Island and conduct undercover operations without notifying any of its officials and then ask for dialogue and co-operation," Mr. Gilbert wrote in a letter to the Wallaceburg Courier Press newspaper last week. "If Environment Canada now wants to talk they can begin the talks with an open and published apology."

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), a branch of Environment Canada, began looking into the hunting practices on Walpole Island in 1999, said Gary Colgan, chief of enforcement for the Ontario region of the CWS.

The reserve, a marshy 6,900 hectares on the northern shore of Lake St. Clair, is a stop-over point for ducks and geese on their fall migrations and a prime waterfowl hunting location.

For years, Mr. Colgan said, hunting outfitters in the surrounding area complained that native guides were violating hunting laws, and that the wildlife service, while enforcing the law for other hunting clubs, was turning a blind eye to violations on Walpole Island.

In response, the CWS conducted a two-day blitz in 1999, checking the cars of hunters coming off the island. These were not native hunters, Mr. Colgan said, but clients, mostly Americans, who had booked shoots with native guides.

"We discovered virtually a 100% violation rate," Mr. Colgan said.

Most of the violations centred around the use of lead shot for hunting. Lead shot is banned because the wasted shot sinks into the marshes, causing ducks and other animals to die of lead poisoning. However, many hunters prefer lead shot because it is heavier than steel and has more power to kill a bird.

After the two-day blitz, Mr. Colgan said he approached the authorities on Walpole Island and suggested setting up workshops with the native hunting guides about wildlife laws. But his advances, he said, were rebuffed.

"I made repeated attempts to engage the community but got no response," Mr. Colgan said.

Determined to enforce the law, in October, 2000, the CWS led a two-week, 28-man undercover investigation on the reserve, with the help of game wardens and conservation officers from Texas, Michigan, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Walpole Island First Nation police force, which consists of five native constables and a native police chief, was not informed of the undercover operation.

Posing as hunters, the officers booked 43 hunts with guides on Walpole. The widespread violations of hunting laws, Mr. Colgan said, ranged from the use of lead shot to exceeding bag limits, hunting out of season and hunting from a power boat.

Although the government sets a legal bag limit of six ducks a day in order to conserve the population, investigators allege that the Walpole Island guides encouraged their clients to shoot twice that many.

Investigators also allege that many hunting ponds were baited with corn, an illegal practice which entices ducks to stay in one area rather than fly away at the sound of gunshots.

The CWS, reluctant to send its uniformed officers on to the reserve, asked the Walpole Island First Nation police force to serve the 12 accused guides with summonses to appear in court.

The native police force refused.

"The position of the band is that it is kind of a slap in the face," said John Trudeau, Walpole Island First Nation Police Chief. "They started the investigation, they've kept us out of the picture, and as far as I'm concerned they can follow through by themselves, by any means they can."

Mr. Trudeau said natives feel they have the right to manage their hunting resources as they see fit, without interference from provincial or federal governments.

As well, the letter by the band chief makes it clear he regards the undercover action by the CWS as an attempt by the federal government to assert jurisdiction over land the band claims as its own, and undermine native land claims.
 

Cazador Suerte II

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Nice story of true sportsmanship.  

Ahhh, the lure of the almighty buck, uh, em,  duh, I mean duck;  the lure of the almighty duck.... yeah thats it!
 

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