Bob Stevenson is one angry trapper. He thinks the Crees “sold out” Aboriginal rights, and especially points a finger at the Cree Trappers’ Association.

The CTA played a big role in Canada’s fight against the European fur ban. Many believe Cree and Inuit lobbying was actually the main reason Europe backed down from a complete ban.

But Stevenson, who represents trappers for both the Assembly of First Nations and Métis National Council, said the CTA and other Natives allowed themselves to be used by the Canadian government and fur industry in Europe.

The result of the negotiations is that Native trappers are now being forced to use quick-kill traps, which aren’t very popular.

For their help, Stevenson said Natives got nothing in return except a slap upside the head. No guarantees the Native way of life won’t be hurt. No help for trap replacement. No money for trapper education.

Stevenson said Cree trappers have the Income Security Program and James Bay Agreement to help them weather the storm. But he said the vast majority of Native trappers out there aren’t so lucky.

Even in the Cree camp, some agree that Natives allowed themselves to be used. “Aboriginal people were the poster boys,” one Cree official said. “We didn’t see any fur farmers making emotional appeals at the European Parliament. It was always Aboriginal people.”

Were Crees used? We asked CTA president Edward Gilpin. “Oh yes, I do believe that. But that’s business,” he replied, adding, “But if Natives get together, we would have less chance of being used.” For example, he called on Stevenson to “get off the high horse of pointing fingers.”

Gilpin did criticize Canada for not consulting Natives in the negotiations with Europe. But he added that Canada did have a gun to its head. “Considering the facts, they had to do something. If they had killed the fur demand, that would have been more devastating than gradually making the switch from leghold traps.”

NEXT ISSUE: More views on the ban.