Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Nunavut January 16, 2018 - 11:30 am

Legal Ease, Jan. 16

Trapping in town—not a good idea


When I was a child, maybe 12 years old, my father explained to me how a shotgun worked.

He taught me how to load and how to shoot. But the thing he really focused on was how I must always assume the shotgun was loaded and how a shotgun has one purpose—to kill.

Safety is absolutely the first thing to consider when you hunt.  Hunting is a traditional thing and a good thing.

But like so many other good things, hunting is good when done properly and safely.

We all know not to shoot unless we are totally sure what we are shooting at; but trapping is a little less obvious as, by definition, you don’t see the trap being tripped. But trapping safety is very important.

There have been some recent media reports about fox traps within community limits. Several readers have written to me about whether such fox traps inside a community are legal.

Under the Nunavut Agreement, Article 5.7.16 Inuit have a “free and unrestricted right of access” to all lands for harvesting, and that includes trapping (thanks to A.Y. for pointing me to the specific article).

But that right to harvest does not extend to anywhere within a mile of a “building, structure or other facility” (Article 5.7.17 (b). The right is also restricted by “laws of general application enacted for the purpose of public safety” (Article 5.7.18(a).

What this means is that there is no direct right to trap inside a mile of any building—which excludes areas in just about any community—and local bylaws intended to protect people from stumbling across a fox trap can also restrict the right to trap.

Local bylaws can make clear that trapping in the community is wrong.

And this makes very good sense. Aside from pet dogs getting caught in traps – and I have emails from people whose sled dogs have been killed that way — people, especially children, can be hurt or killed by fox traps.

Children play near their homes and putting out traps inside a community is very dangerous.

Indeed, putting a fox trap inside a community where it is quite obvious someone could be hurt may amount to criminal negligence.

If you do something that “shows a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” you may commit criminal negligence. And criminal negligence is a serious crime.

The answer of course is to hunt safely. Remember not to place traps where they can hurt people or domesticated animals. Don’t hunt inside your community!

James Morton is a lawyer practising in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.

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