The Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation says it is “disheartened” that no investigation has so far begun into the conduct of wildlife officers who searched a cultural camp last fall.
The First Nation says the September search, in the course of an investigation into illegal caribou harvesting, represented “an unlawful and aggressive raid on a community culture camp” at Timber Bay on Artillery Lake.
At the time, the NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources and environment minister Shane Thompson defended the search as a necessity in enforcing laws that aim to prevent illegal harvesting.
Multiple Indigenous leaders condemned the search of the camp by two officers as an overly aggressive tactic that endangered relations between the territorial government and Indigenous governments. In response, the department said it was “planning to engage outside enforcement specialists to complete a review of this enforcement action.”
The search warrant relied upon by the officers was later quashed in NWT Supreme Court.
This week, Chief James Marlowe of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation said the lack of any progress toward such a review was “frustrating.”
“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,” Chief Marlowe was quoted as saying in a Wednesday press release.
“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.”
The First Nation says it is still waiting for an apology from Thompson.
Responding to the press release, ENR spokesperson Mike Westwick said the territory “remains committed to conducting an external review of officer conduct during the search at Timber Bay.”
Westwick said Thompson had held discussions with First Nation leaders in which “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.”
He said the minister had “offered to meet with Chief Marlowe and hold a reconciliation event in Łutsël K’é.”
Westwick said the external review is “expected to be initiated once the investigation into suspected illegal harvest and wastage in the mobile zone is complete,” adding that the case in question remains active.