GN to sit on Kadlak bear-hunt bid for three more weeks

Sustainable Development Minister Olayuk Akesuk still won’t say what the GN plans to do with Noah Kadlak’s spear-hunt application.



Sustainable Development Minister Olayuk Akesuk says it will be three more weeks before he decides if he’s going to let a Coral Harbour man hunt a polar bear with a harpoon.

In an interview this week, Akesuk said he still needed time to review details of the case.

“Our position right now is to review what we could do with this situation. We haven’t really made a decision yet whether we are going to appeal or let the hunt go,” the minister said.

The decision revolves around a recent court ruling on a Coral Harbour man’s right to take part in a traditional polar bear hunt using a harpoon.

On Jan. 4 Justice Robert Kilpatrick ruled that it was unconstitutional for the Department of Sustainable Development to prevent Noah Kadluk from going ahead with the hunt. Kadluk’s hunt was to be part of a documentary film about how Inuit used to hunt polar bears before the Europeans introduced guns to the North.

In his ruling, Justice Kilpatrick said the decision to prevent the special hunt infringed upon hunting rights that are laid out in the Nunavut land claims agreement and in the Canadian Constitution.

“The decision made by the Minister in this case restricts or limits a constitutionally protected right of harvest that I have found to be the central focus of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement,” Kilpatrick wrote in the ruling.

Kadlak’s case has been going on since 1997 when he applied to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board for permission to hunt a bear with a spear.

Special permission was needed because the Wildlife Act says bears can be hunted with certain weapons — but spears aren’t among them. While the NWMB supported the idea, both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments nixed the idea of the special hunt, claiming it threatened public safety.

Now that the case has been ruled on in court, the final say over the hunt lies with Akesuk, the current minister of sustainable development.

Following Justice Kilpatrick’s ruling, Akesuk released a statement saying the Nunavut government was disappointed and would study the decision further.

Since then Akesuk has maintained his stance that his department is concerned the hunt would be a threat to public safety.

When the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board approved Kadlak’s proposal in 1998, it attached several safety conditions to the hunt. In particular, the NWMB required that Kadlak be accompanied by another hunter carrying a firearm, that he sign an indemnity agreement and that he get written permission from his local Hunters and Trappers Organization.

But even with these regulations, Akesuk said public safety is still at risk. “We are worried the hunt might go wrong,” he said.

Akesuk said looking at this case is a priority for him right now. He will be making recommendations and forwarding them to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board in the next few weeks.

“We’re going to check to see how we can deal with this the best way,” he said.

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