PUBLICATION: The Toronto Sun
BYLINE: JOHN KERR
Anglers, hunters, trappers, and competitive shooters across Canada have a champion in Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz.
Not only is he a key figure in Stephen Harper's Conservative government's move to eliminate the long-gun registry, he is proposing to form an Outdoors Caucus within the Parliament of Canada.
In a letter sent to federal MPs and senators of all stripes late last week, inviting like-minded members to join the Outdoors Caucus, Breitkreuz stated, "There are approximately five million Canadians who
participate in these outdoor activities and they have given our country a conservation legacy of which we can be very proud. It is vital that the interests of this vast group of Canadians be recognized by Members of Parliament and Senators from all parties."
He went on to state: "Our mission is to entrench in law fishing, hunting, trapping, and shooting sports as acceptable, traditional, environmentally sustainable outdoor-heritage activities with a safety credo and conservation ethic as our highest priorities."
This would include ensuring Canadians have reasonable access to federally managed public lands and waters, increasing awareness of the economic importance of outdoor-heritage activities, preserving and promoting these activities and environmental stewardship, and supporting multiple sustainable uses and management of public lands, waters, fish, wildlife and habitat, based on sound science and professional natural resources tenets, for the benefit of all Canadians.
Reached at his Yorkton office yesterday, Breitkreuz said 10 MPs already have approached him to be on the caucus. "The first was an NDP and some of the others were Liberals," he added.
He speculated the caucus could grow to 30 to 40 members. It would meet about once per month.
Breitkreuz said the long-gun registry really discouraged a lot of people from hunting and it is time to promote outdoor-heritage activities again.
With an Outdoor Caucus likely a go, and if the Conservatives remain in power long enough, we could see federal legislation in the future that mirrors the Ontario Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act brought in by the Harris Conservatives in 2002. It recognizes the right to hunt and fish in accordance with Ontario laws and, while having little legislative teeth, makes a strong statement that outdoor-heritage activities are indeed "legitimate and appropriate" activities.
But that's my guess. Breitkreuz did not want to commit to that, but said he will discuss it with the Outdoor Caucus after it forms.
More significant of the Ontario Conservatives was including in the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1997 that "A person shall not interfere with lawful hunting, trapping, and fishing." This includes by tampering with equipment, placing themselves in a position to interfere, and engaging in an activity that is likely to disturb wildlife or fish being hunted or angled. The legislation already has been used against people harassing hunters and anglers.
While expecting such strong legislation at the national level might be a bit much at this point, a non-partisan Outdoors Caucus could mean the future of fish and wildlife conservation across Canada and the traditional Canadian hunting and gathering way of life have a strong future.