Statement on Indigenous Trapping
The Fur-Bearers is committed to promoting animal welfare while respecting the rights and traditions of Indigenous communities. We recognize the importance of Indigenous peoples’ rights to trap as an integral aspect of their cultural heritage, subsistence, and livelihoods.
Our organization acknowledges that Indigenous communities have a deep and historical connection to the land. Traditional trapping practices have sustained Indigenous peoples since time immemorial, and continue to be vital for their cultural and spiritual well-being. We respect the principles of self-determination and sovereignty, which are fundamental to Indigenous rights.
Historically, colonial policies and practices have aimed to eliminate Indigenous self-determination, leading to the erosion of traditional and culturally integral practices. The Fur-Bearers acknowledge the profound and lasting impacts of these policies, including the loss of cultural knowledge, disruption of ecological balance, and socio-economic disparities faced by Indigenous communities.
We firmly believe that animal welfare and Indigenous rights are not mutually exclusive. The Fur-Bearers is committed to fostering mutual understanding, cooperation, and the pursuit of common goals for the benefit of all living beings and the preservation of our natural world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is The Fur-Bearers issuing this statement now?
Founded in 1953, The Fur-Bearers has a lengthy history of operating within Indigenous territories yet has not meaningfully engaged with Indigenous rights as they relate to trapping. Considering our organization’s roots and advocacy around the impact of traps on wildlife, we may have committed unintentional harms that have gone unaddressed. We recognize the harms caused by colonization; we are committed to protecting animal welfare while not perpetuating further harms to Indigenous peoples through our work.
Will this position change your advocacy around trapping?
Our work has always focused on how traps cause suffering to wild animals, this will not change. The focus of our advocacy is towards commercial and recreational trapping, which results in unnecessary suffering and harms towards wildlife on a large scale. We are firmly opposed to the mass exploitation and commodification of wildlife for fashion products in the commercial fur trade.
If you say traps cause suffering to wild animals, does it matter who sets the trap?
We are focused on reducing the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest number of animals. The harms to wildlife and the environment caused by commercial and recreational trapping under colonial regulatory frameworks occurs on a large scale in Canada and is entirely unnecessary, as wildlife are trapped for financial gain or for pleasure. We do not seek to interfere or infringe upon Indigenous rights to trap for subsistence purposes in abundant populations; trapping for subsistence should always minimize animal suffering to the fullest extent possible.
If you advocate for an end to commercial and recreational trapping, wouldn’t that impact Indigenous rights to trap?
Status Indians have their rights to trap protected and reaffirmed under the Constitution Act, and are therefore exempt from provincial trapping laws. Provincial laws that regulate commercial trapping activities were created by colonial governments across Canada, and have harmed not only wildlife and the environment, but also Indigenous communities. For more information on the tension between provincial trapping regulations and Indigenous trapping traditions, read the 2018 report by West Coast Environmental Law: Caretakers of the Land and its People: Why Indigenous Trapline Holders’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities Matter for Everyone
What is The Fur-Bearers doing to protect wildlife while commiting to reconciliation and being an ally with Indigenous peoples?
The Fur-Bearers will continue to protect wildlife by challenging anthropocentric worldviews, systems, and practices that result in suffering to wild animals for profit, sport, leisure, and unsustainable wildlife management. These worldviews are embedded within colonial institutions which regard wildlife as resources that are commodified for human use, and view wildlife as property of the Crown. We are committed to challenging prevailing narratives and decolonizing not only our work, but the context in which we work.
To this end, The Fur-Bearers has reflected our commitments to reconciliation in our policies and will promote ongoing training and education for staff in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (#92). We will continue to work alongside, and amplify the voices of, Indigenous wildlife advocates through our work. Thank you for your support and understanding as we move through this process and work to honour our commitments in our ongoing operations.
This policy was approved by The Fur-Bearers Board of Directors on November 15, 2023.