The new and improved NWT Wildlife Act is scheduled to be reintroduced early in the next legislative session, Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Minister Michael Miltenberger told Northern Journal last week.
The act underwent a last bout of scrutiny from the Aboriginal governments working group on Nov. 8 and 9 in Yellowknife and now only needs to undergo the remaining processes before it can be proposed as legislation for a second time following its rejection in August 2011.
The act was killed at the eleventh hour of the prior assembly after settled and unsettled Aboriginal claimant groups disagreed over the structure of the “conference” – a built-in review process for the act that appeared to differentiate between the two groups.
This time around, Miltenberger said, concerns have been ironed out and there should be few objections to what is tabled next February.
“We’ve added the working group, we set up this Stakeholders Wildlife Act Advisory Group (SWAAG), we’ve done the public consultation, we’ve done all that work. And, at the end of the day, we’ve sorted out now – this time, well in advance – the conference issue, which was a sticking point of the working group members,” Miltenberger said.
The department still has to have a fi nal meeting with the SWAAG, an advisory group of non-Aboriginal stakeholders who were invited to have more input into the act this time around. Composed primarily of resident hunters, tourism and industry representatives and environmental organizations, the group was given funding by the department to write its own report of recommendations that will be incorporated into the fi nal version of the act.
Resident hunters vehemently opposed the last version of the bill, claiming it neither protected wildlife nor was fair to non-Aboriginal Northerners.
Miltenberger said this latest round of consultation hopefully addresses those concerns.
“We’re looking at adjusting the act as much as we can to address some of their concerns, which we believe we’ll be able to do for the most part,” Miltenberger said. “We’re going to commit on a go-forward basis… to have an ongoing connection and relationship where the ministers, in the bill, will be obligated to consult on an ongoing basis with the other stakeholders, (to) build that in to make sure that all facets, all sectors of the Northwest Territories population can have their say and be involved in the implementation of the Wildlife Act.”
One of the previous bill’s most vocal opponents, Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley, recently criticized the department for taking too long with the updated Wildlife Act, which was originally set to be reintroduced during the most recent session. Bromley told CBC North he was disappointed with how little was accomplished in the House over the last weeks, adding that government should not be moving so slowly.
Miltenberger said it is not fair for MLAs like Bromley to demand more consultation and simultaneously expect quick results.
“I think it’s been identified as a priority for this assembly, so we’ve gone that extra mile to get it done right,” he said. “We initially wanted to have it done for this fall session, but it wasn’t quite there, so now we’ll bring it in February.”