Hunters’ organizations will review assignment of rights
Iqaluit’s hunters and trappers organization wants to make sure that Inuit hunting rights aren’t given away to the wrong people.
MONTREAL — The increasingly common practice of allowing Inuit land claim beneficiaries to assign their hunting rights to non-Inuit is raising concern among Nunavut’s hunters and trappers organizations.
According to section 5.7 of the Nunavut land claim, which deals with the assignment of Inuit hunting rights, Inuit can give away these rights to another Inuk or “a spouse or a person cohabiting as the spouse of an Inuk.”
This measure was designed to help elders or women who need fresh food for themselves or their families.
But too often, elders don’t benefit say hunters and trappers organizations, because the hunting rights are given away to newcomers with few strong connections to the community.
“The practice after 1993 is quite different,” says Sytukie Joamie of Iqaluit’s Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association.
The present system’s shortcomings crop up frequently in larger communities such as Iqaluit, where there are large numbers of non-Inuit residents.
“You can get off the plane in Iqaluit from Tobago, head over to the Legion for a beer, meet a girl, fall in love and move in with her, and the next day be out hunting,” Joamie said.
Iqaluit HTA turns down requests
Last year Iqaluit’s HTA handled 80 transfers of hunting rights — and many more requests. Some refusals, said Joamie, generated angry and “racist” letters to the HTA.
“We are not against people giving away this right,” Joamie said. “We just want to have these given away with a proper procedure.”
With 2600 Inuit and 2500 non-Inuit in Iqaluit, controlling who hunts and what they hunt is becoming an increasingly important issue, especially in the case of polar bears, for which Iqaluit has quota of only 18 animals.
“Only members [eligible Inuit] should be in the draw for polar bears,” Joamie said.
Iqaluit’s HTA membership will be asked to approve a resolution that reflects this view at their Dec. 4 annual general meeting.
“Whatever we do in Iqaluit, we know we have to make it easy to adjust for use in the other communities,” Joamie said.
The Nunavut land claim agreement granted local hunters’ organizations the authority to manage wildlife harvesting in communities, so Iqaluit’s HTA set up a committee headed by Madeleine Redfern to look at issues around the re-assignment of Inuit hunting rights.
Collective rights first
This committee concluded that any policies adopted by the HTOs should reflect the collective rights of Inuit, not those of the individual. The committee is proposing that the HTOs’ policies also reflect the collective intent of the land claim agreement.
“Inuit have always believed in the collective over the individual,” Redfern said. “This is a perfect example, and we need to look at the collective rights.”
Redfern suggested that a non-Inuk who doesn’t have the right to hunt should simply apply for a general hunting license.
“I’m an Inuk and married to a man who’s a non-Inuk,” Redfern said. “My husband — if he wants to go hunting — can get a general hunting license, but I don’t think he should go hunting as an Inuk.”
Redfern maintains that the allocation of polar bear hunting rights be reserved solely for Inuit.
“My husband could never be able to hunt a polar bear with the same cultural understanding as an Inuk,” Redfern said.
She’d also like to see priority for the polar bear hunt given to full-time hunters and long-term residents of the community.
Redfern said that it’s Inuit who must decide how to handle the assignment of their hunting rights and likewise determine rules for HTA members and non-members.
“In any societal laws, there are those rules and regulations that apply right across the board,” she said.
When Nunavut’s HTAs meet this coming weekend in Rankin Inlet, Redfern said that they will review the assignment of Inuit hunting rights.