The Trouble With The First Nation’s Deer Hunt In Niagara’s Short Hills Provincial Park

“The concerns raised by the local people protesting the hunt seem quite valid and only directed at the activity, not who does it.”

“The places animals can live safe from humanity’s need to kill are few, and should be protected.”

A Commentary by Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate in the Canadian office of Born Free U.S.A.

Posted November 29th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Regarding the deer hunt or cull in Short Hills Provincial Park in Niagara, I wonder if the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is using the Haudenosaunee to promote “hunting as a wildlife management tool” because their revenues are in decline from hunter (and fisher) licenses issued.

Protesting Short Hills deer hund. File photo from a past hunt. doug draper

Protesting Short Hills deer hund. File photo from a past hunt. doug draper

Of course such revenue does not come from First Nations, whose treaty rights override rules applied to everyone else.  Thus my theory, in part, is that it is seen as in the fiscal interest of the MNRF to support the conception of hunting being necessary, overall.

I have had MNRF officials claim it is necessary to reduce deer numbers and also claim that it is not – that the hunt is just a hunt.

I think the hunters are using the MNRF to provide the opportunity to have a private hunting preserve with tame deer available for exercising treaty-granted “rights” that are all too often stomped on in so many other areas, including those fundamental to preservation of contributors to cultural identity, including language and religion.

Indicators of overpopulation, such as starving deer, reduced fawn production and heavy browse lines, are all missing here. The hunt is assuredly more disruptive of the Short Hills Park’s ecosystem, than any naturally occurring species within that ecosystem, including deer.

Vastly more deer are killed by non-First Nation hunters and poachers outside the park than the relatively small number so easily killed within it. However, I have some conservation concern as viable woodland in the region is long gone and I do worry that the survival of some woodland-wetland species (amphibians and invertebrates particularly) could be compromised by the degradation of the park that follows the hunting activities.

Deer in s Short Hills Provincial Park in Niagara, Ontario. file photo

Deer in s Short Hills Provincial Park in Niagara, Ontario. file photo

I’m thinking, here, of such things as the run-off from deep ruts, which are also breeding grounds for mosquitoes disruptive to the ecosystem dynamics one would hope a park would preserve.

I believe that there is no such thing as an “inherent” right, so that invariably the “right” of one person must come at the cost of at least a part of the right of another (often to a trivial degree, such as my neighbour’s right to mow his lawn coming at my right to a peaceful and quiet Saturday morning).  Whether “rights” are inherent or not, the only rights that matter, pragmatically, are those enshrined in legislation that is enforced.

First Nations are not alone in wanting to kill animals. Nearly all societies, cultures, demographics, religions, cults and other identifiable segments of humanity have reasons to kill, often under the guise of spirituality.

From kosher and halal slaughter through economic submission to economies to scale in assembly-line slaughter to bull-fighting in Spain, dog-eating in Asia, fox hunting in the UK, the Nepalese Gadhimai festival slaughter of thousands of animals, Latin American cock fighting or east-coast seal clubbing or Japanese dolphin slaughter to assurances by St. Thomas of Aquinas that it’s just fine for Christians to make use of animals, “either by killing them or in any other way whatever” so long as it does not “dehumanize” the killer.

We love to kill.

Dead deer being dragged away during past hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park. file photo

Dead deer being dragged away during past hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park. file photo

One could list countless such examples of culturally sanctioned killing, with a small but increasing minority questioning it all as we enter an era of human-caused mass extinctions, but it is the animals who, not able to vote or voice their defense, are most often victimized by people with what is to them, solid rationales.

I’ve talked to many people in opposition to the hunt, including a card-carrying First Nations (but not Haudenosaunee, and obviously feeling in a position of conflict and a Metis, as well as colleagues who have stood with the First Nations on various other issues.

It’s a Pandora’s Box that ought never to have been opened and has divided the community, reduced property values, and led to rancor and disruption and community polarization, and not just a little fearfulness.

It also bothers me that everyone else can and does find hunting opportunities throughout the region, while the Haudenosaunee argue that they are constantly discriminated against, and not allowed access to hunt on private land that is open to non-First Nations sport hunters.  t is an allegation which, if true, is disquieting, to say the least, as a manifestation of bigotry.

On the other hand, I’m reluctant to throw that term around casually since people who stand with First Nations on other issues have been accused, at least in dog-whistle language, of racism whereas, in fact, it hardly matters to them what demographic one belongs to; the concerns raised by the local people protesting the hunt seem quite valid and only directed at the activity, not who does it.

I’d be infuriated if the deer and other animals I had come to know individually through the year in areas near me, even visiting my yard, were then allowed to be slaughtered.  I have my own spiritual needs, and that includes respect for lives of others, even other species!

There is this assumption at work with this hunt that the MNRF and/or Haudenosaunee know more about deer than anyone.  I am not young (indeed, were I First Nation I’d be an “elder”) and I have had a life-time of interaction with government wildlife managers and it has been my experience that while they often have access to very solid research from wildlife biologists and scientist, both on the government payroll and from academia, the managers’ decisions often ignore best advice and are driven by various political expediencies .

The places animals can live safe from humanity’s need to kill are few, and should be protected.

About Born Free U.S.A. – Born Free USA is a national animal advocacy nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. … Our mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect wildlife — including highly endangered species — in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

For more information on Born Free U.S.A., click on – http://www.bornfreeusa.org/ .

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5 responses to “The Trouble With The First Nation’s Deer Hunt In Niagara’s Short Hills Provincial Park

  1. “The places animals can live safe from humanity’s need to kill are few, and should be protected.” Every one of us has our own “spiritual beliefs”. My belief is that every life is precious. The land is precious along with all sentient beings on the land. No one has a “right” to kill. There may be times when it is necessary for survival but – never just for the sake of killing. I would hope we humans, as a species, could evolve beyond the desire to kill, in some cases just to proclaim that “we can if we choose”. If MNFR is allowing this to save costs that is indefensible and reprehensible. That is in clear violation of what the Ministry was purportedly created for.

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  2. Sheila Krekorian

    Well said Mr MacKay!
    The photo of Brian Calvert, a life long supporter of Niagara’s environment and her inhabitants, reminds us of how precious animal or human life truly is.

    Like

  3. The claim that a” treaty” exists to allow the Six Nations or Haudenosaunee and others to hunt here is “a lot of garbage”. The rights of the Five/Six Nations to hunt here were surrendered by a Wampum Belt in 1700 as well as the land claims to “Ontario” to the Mississauga and allies. Haldimand had to secure the permission of the Mississauga to admit Brant and his people in 1784.Two Royal Commission have produced hard evidence that the Six Nation et all have no legal rights in “Ontariop” to hunt. The “Nanfan Treaty” that is claimed to give them has by hard evidence is not a treaty under Canadian law.The documents that reside in England show that the so called “treaty” claimed was result of “lazy lawyers” and a Judge that accepted third hand” evidence” that is a disgrace to our legal courts.

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  4. Not surprisingly the author expresses an American conception of Locke’s rights and has no respect for treaties that maintain the peace. There has never been a surrender of rights nor could there be between people at peace although my American ancestors stole our land in the rebellion.
    Surrendered is also an exclusively American conception based on ‘might makes right’ but they did not win the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent was a European agreement that betrayed our indigenous allies but it can not replace the ‘Two Row Wapum’.

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  5. Christine Gonnermann

    I have to thank you for writing this article and working towards the protection of life on Earth. In a world of people so intent on destroy every living creature, including man’s own species, it’s refreshing to come across another fellow keeper of nature in it’s purest form. Peace.

    Like

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