by Jeremy Loome, Edmonton SUN
December 15, 2007
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A move to allow subsistence hunting all year around is designed to help Alberta families in need, says the provincial government.
But the decision is being panned by social workers who say the suggestion that needy Albertans 90% of whom live in inner city urban areas should pack up a rifle and head for the woods is both callous and ignorant.
What this demonstrates is a complete lack of understanding on the provincial governments part of why people are in need in Alberta and of the issues theyre facing, says Shelley Williams, executive director of the inner city Bissell Centre.
Its clear that, if they think this is going to help people in need, the provincial government really doesnt understand how to help.
While there are obviously rural Albertans who hunt to feed their families, those people are probably already doing so. And the remainder of those in need arent about to go out and buy a rifle any time soon.
The decision was likely made to ease pressure on the province after the government tore up a two-year old deal giving broad harvesting rights to all Alberta Metis, says John Kolkman, with the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
This isnt tailored to helping low-income Albertans, its a damage control exercise around the political hot potato of the Metis Harvesting Agreement, which Ted Morton tore up.
Other than that, this really isnt going to do very much for needy people.
Marjorie Bencz, director of the Edmonton Food Bank, jokingly wonders if the province would like us to start including rifles in peoples hampers.
Even from the perspective of people donating the animals theyve hunted, this doesnt help agencies because none of us are allowed to accept meat that is uninspected, she notes.
Beyond that, I dont even begin to know what to say to the suggestion that this will do anything for people in need. Its not going to deal with the issues of housing and the many other real challenges people face.
Morton, the Sustainable Resources Minister, says the rule change could benefit both needy families and Metis Albertans. Theres no need for anyone to break the law to get meat for their family, he says. Just come in to one of our local offices and apply for a licence.
Under the old rules, only certain Geographical areas were allowed subsistence permits and there were season restrictions.
Now, anyone in Alberta can apply and do so all year around.
They will be granted the licence if they can prove they need the meat and based on local availability in the moose, elk or deer populations, with the government referring people calling with specifics on the program to Service Albertas 310-0000 telephone hotline.
The appearance of the province telling needy families to go out and hunt for their dinner is just embarrassing for Alberta.
Its just a crass mixing of ideology and bad policy, says Dave Eggen, the NDP MLA for Edmonton Calder. It smacks of medieval times and the feudal lord giving the serfs a chance to hunt on his land so that they wont starve.
Williams says inner city residents wouldnt be able to afford a hunting rifle, let alone the transportation required to get out to the bush.
The people coming into urban centres and trying to survive dont need more access to hunting.
Its jobs, housing, and survival and sustainability in other ways. It would be way better to focus on the real issues behind why people are needy, to address the issues of housing, of once-per-year rent increases that people cant afford.
It doesnt help get supports to people to help them until they can actually find some stability in their life. So there are lots of things the government could be focussing on if they really want to help people be self-sustaining.
This just shows a level of ignorance of the struggles facing most Albertans.
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