CONKLIN, Alta. — Alberta's Indigenous relations minister is apologizing after provincial fish and wildlife officers seized dozens of smoked fish from an annual Metis cultural camp.
A statement issued by Richard Feehan over the weekend says the seizure happened near Conklin on Friday, only a day after Feehan says he himself visited the camp.
The statement says fish and wildlife investigators responded to a call about an illegal net in Christina Lake, but didn't find the net when they arrived.
They did find the camp with about 30 people, who were smoking about 25 whitefish.
Alberta requires people who fish with a net to have a Metis Domestic Fishing Licence.
Two people were issued appearance notices for fishing without a licence and all of the fish were seized.
"This was an unfortunate circumstance. I understand there may have been some issues with the licensing, but I think this situation could have been avoided," Feehan said in the statement, which was issued late Saturday. "I commit that we will take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
The statement said Feehan has personally apologized to Metis Local 193 president Shirley Tremblay and vice-president Ernie Desjarlais.
A video of the incident has been posted to Facebook.
Tremblay, who was at the camp when Feehan visited but who wasn't there when the officers arrived, said she doesn't fault the officers for coming to the camp and conducting an investigation.
But she doesn't think they needed to take the fish.
"We didn't want a riot or anything to occur. It was actually the vice president of the Metis local that helped put the fish in bags," Tremblay said in an interview Sunday.
"They took our food supply, or a portion of our food supply."
The statement from Feehan said the government will work with the community to ensure members have appropriate licences.
The Conlkin Development Advisory Committee issued a statement Saturday about the incident, where it called the actions of the officers at the cultural camp "completely inappropriate" and "insensitive."
"It was a time for celebration that was severely tainted by the actions of but an ill-informed few," the statement said.
The group tweeted Sunday it accepts Feehan's apology and hopes it expedites the creation of a Metis consultation and harvesting policy.
Tremblay said the camp at Conklin has been going for about eight years, and includes other traditional Metis activities, such as drying meat and berries and beading.
She said Feehan ate a meal when he visited the camp that included fish from the lake, pork hocks, potatoes and salads.
According to the statement from Feehan, he enjoyed himself.
"I had a great time at the camp and truly enjoyed meeting with the residents," he said.
"These types of cultural experiences are very important in preserving Metis culture and I wouldn't want to see that experience ruined."
—by Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton