Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) is accusing the GNWT of failing to investigate the conduct of wildlife officers that seized caribou meat from one of their camps six months ago.
On Sept. 13, wildlife officers searched a community culture camp at Artillery Lake to investigate two separate reports from the public of illegal harvesting happening within the caribou management zone.
LKDFN said their community members were questioned at length and were threatened with charges of obstruction if they did not cooperate.
The search warrant was eventually quashed in NWT Supreme Court by Chief Justice Shannon Smallwood; NWT Attorney General R.J. Simpson admitted in court that the search warrant “was issued without lawful authority.”
Minister Shane Thompson said that 10 caribou in total were harvested, all located inside the management zone, with a significant amount of edible meat wasted.
Ten days after the search, Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) announced that they would review their actions with outside enforcement specialists.
LKDFN stated on March 22 that they were disheartened to learn that there was no investigation after six months.
ENR confirmed with LKDFN on March 20 that they had not identified an external investigator.
Chief James Marlowe stated his dissatisfaction with the GNWT’s lack of progress.
“It is frustrating that more than six months after they committed to undertaking an external investigation of the unlawful raid on our camp, the government hasn’t even appointed an investigator, let alone started the investigation,” he stated. “We shouldn’t be surprised. They executed a warrant that shouldn’t have been issued in the first place using aggressive and disrespectful tactics, and they have refused to acknowledge their wrongdoing and apologize for the harm they caused.”
LKDFN stated that their leadership, including Marlowe, requested an apology for the search but Shane Thompson, minister of ENR, refused.
Mike Westwick, manager of communications and public affairs for ENR, stated that the GNWT is committed to conducting an external review of officer conduct during the search.
“The minister of Environment and Natural Resources committed to the review in letters and discussions with leadership of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation,” he said. “In these communications it was acknowledged that some of those who were harvesting wildlife in respectful and lawful ways, or those who were not harvesting wildlife, felt traumatized by the search.
“Minister Thompson has offered to meet with Chief Marlowe and hold a reconciliation event in Lutsel K’e.”
He said that the GNWT is still actively investigating the harvesting situation.
“The external review is expected to be initiated once the investigation into suspected illegal harvest and wastage in the mobile zone is complete.”
NNSL Media asked Marlowe for his response to the minister’s offer but did not hear back before press deadline.
Were they not just simply doing their job?