Manitoba’s premier is being criticized for saying indigenous people shouldn’t be night hunting and that the practice is creating a "race war."

Brian Pallister made the comments to fellow Progressive Conservatives earlier this week in Virden, Man.

"Young indigenous guys going out and shootin’ a bunch of moose ’cause they can, ’cause they say it’s their right, doesn’t make any sense to me," he said in a speech, which was recorded by the local radio station CJVM.

"This is a poor practice. A dumb practice ... It should stop. So what are we doing? We’re organizing to bring indigenous people together and say the same thing I just said to ya, ’cause it’s becoming a race war and I don’t want that."

The province’s hunting guide says indigenous people have the right to hunt at night where it is safe, but it is illegal for others.

The premier said in an emailed statement Friday that night hunting is a dangerous practice for everyone and that "rights do not trump responsibilities." He said the government is reaching out to indigenous communities on the issue.

NDP legislature member Wab Kinew called the premier’s words awful and offensive.

"You’re a dinosaur if you’re talking like that," Kinew said.

Kinew said that as an aboriginal man, he hunts, but not at night because it isn’t safe.

"There are reasonable people on all sides of the issue," he said. "But the problem is reasonable voices get crowded out by inflammatory comments like ’race war.’ The premier’s got to own up to that. He’s got to recognize this was reckless and he should apologize."

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Pallister’s remarks are damaging to reconciliation in rural Manitoba.

"Whether you see the issue politically or from the lens of responsible leadership, the comments are unnecessarily inflammatory and only add to the difficulty in addressing long−standing challenges that indigenous hunters have faced in accessing our traditional hunting territories."

Manitoba Liberal Leader Judy Klassen, an aboriginal woman, also demanded an apology.

"Use of terms like ’race war’ are thoughtless, Premier, we all are one race — the human race," she said in a release. "Indigenous hunters fought for over a century to have this treaty right honoured.

Night hunting has become controversial because it is commonly associated with hunters in trucks used high−powered lights to target animals, said Rob Olson, managing director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.

In some remote areas, indigenous hunters have long used only moonlight to track moose, Olson said.

The danger, he said, is when night hunting takes place near farms and ranches. Hunters can’t see in the dark what’s beyond their target. Bullets have hit homes and cattle by mistake, Olson said. Last fall, an aboriginal hunter died in a night−hunting accident.

Olson’s group has been talking with First Nations about the practice and pushing the province to quickly do the same. He hopes the government will follow Saskatchewan and ban night hunting for everyone in certain areas. Indigenous groups agreed after the province got the support of elders, he said.

Olson said he doesn’t think Pallister was offensive and that tensions are indeed brewing on the issue.

"What I took it to mean is (Pallister) doesn’t want a race war and, in that regard, who does?" Olson said. "Here is the thing: the longer it takes the government to move on consulting and solving the issue, the more tensions that can be created between races, and we’ve got to avoid that at all costs."

— With files from CJVM

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His comments were ignorant and inflammatory, which is a different issue than the crisis happening with far too many species right now. Treaties from hundreds if years ago didn't take into account the realities today - hunting to the point of species collapse and extinction, habitat loss. climate change, decreased disease resistance from gene pools that have lost 90% or more of their diversity due to generations of over hunting, roads and industry invading their remaining habitat, and the list goes on. Historically, indigenous territories were larger and their populations much smaller. The remaining species are not numerous enough to provide for so many indigenous, m├ętis, Inuit, etc that prey upon them. Get together with scientists, conservation groups, and Elders, educate everyone on the facts, and agree on solutions. In addition, proper population studies on some species haven't been carried out in decades, so any numbers given are pulled out of the air. Predators help keep gene pools strong by taking the weak and old out of the gene pool. Hunters (especially trophy hunters) look for the biggest, healthiest, most prime specimens to kill. Every year the biggest and best are slaughtered, plus poaching, females and young killed (read posts on local hunting sites where they brag about shooting fawns), etc. Take out the most vital genes every single year for over 150 years and what is left hasn't got resistance to ticks, brain worms, or changes in climate. This is affecting ungulates, bears, bison, muskox, and many others. There is a phenomenon referred to as "MESSY HUNTS" in indigenous communities that needs to stop, as does trophy hunting, slaughter of predators and grazing cattle on crown land, parks, etc. Increase anti-poaching staff. Ban trophy hunting. Protect all remaining old growth forests. It would be a start.