09/29/2012 04:54 EDT | Updated 11/29/2012 05:12 EST

Manitoba Metis and province ink deal for domestic hunting and fishing

BRANDON, Man. - The Manitoba government and the province's Metis have signed a deal to recognize hunting and fishing rights, an issue that has caused tension in courts across the country following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling almost a decade ago.

The agreement, signed Saturday at the Manitoba Metis Federation's annual general assembly in Brandon, recognizes Metis hunting and fishing rights for domestic use in locations that have been agreed on by both the province and the federation.

It also uses the federation's Metis Laws of the Hunt as the basis for developing new provincial regulations to govern Metis.

The province says cards that are issued by the federation will be recognized as a means for hunters to identify themselves as Metis.

"Based on many years of discussions and decisions from the courts, I am very proud to jointly announce this Metis harvesting agreement between the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Metis," said David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, in a joint media release with Premier Greg Selinger.

"Our Metis laws and the provincial laws will now work together to improve resource management and stability," Chartrand added.

A 2003 Supreme Court of Canada ruling recognized the constitutional right of Metis to hunt and fish for food. However, sticking points in various provinces have tended to focus on definitions of a traditional Metis community and how large an area each community can claim.

In 2009, Will Goodon, a Manitoba Metis hunter, succeeded in a provincial court challenge that began five years earlier when he was charged for shooting a ringneck duck near Turtle Mountain.

Goodon argued his Manitoba Metis Federation hunting card was all he needed, but Manitoba Conservation officials disagreed and Goodon was charged under the Wildlife Act.

A Metis hunter from Alberta, meanwhile, has been granted the right to appeal two points of law by Alberta's appeal court following a conviction for of hunting out of season when he took a mule deer near the Cypress Hills, Alta., in late 2007.

Garry Hirsekorn's lawyers had argued that he was exercising his aboriginal rights as a Metis, but the province only recognizes the Metis right to hunt around several northern Alberta settlements.

The Manitoba announcement on Saturday includes a process for considering Metis claims in other regions of the province that fall outside of the current ones listed in the deal.

The announcement also says that as part of the recognition for Metis hunting and fishing rights, Metis people will continue to be required to follow safety and conservation regulations.

"In addition to recent jurisprudence, history makes it clear that Metis people have aboriginal harvesting rights in certain regions of Manitoba," Selinger said in the statement.

"Through co-operation with the (federation), we have been able to maintain a balance of recognizing those rights while ensuring an orderly approach to conservation and enforcement."

News of the deal was immediately welcomed by Metis in Ontario, where the 2003 Supreme Court case, known as the Powley decision, had been fought.

The case stemmed from a father and son, Steve and Roddy Powley, who were charged in 1993 with illegally hunting moose under Ontario's Game and Fish Act.

Gary Lipinski, president of the Metis Nation of Ontario, said in a news release that he was pleased an agreement that's already in place for Ontario Metis now has a companion in Manitoba.

"This agreement is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Manitoba Metis community and their elected leadership," Lipinski said.

Reid Woods, president of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, also welcomed the deal and compared the Metis Laws of the Hunt to the regulations that licenced anglers and hunters follow.