A program aimed at providing Aboriginal youth with traditional hunting and fishing skills was abruptly put to a halt by the RCMP’s INSET (Integrated National Security Enforcement Team) in British Columbia June 27.

That’s when three members of the training program were arrested after purchasing hunting equipment bound for Tsawataineuk First Nation. The hunting equipment in question included 14 Norinco M305 rifles and 10,400 rounds of ammunition.

Conservative MP John Cummins (Delta) was quick to comment and labeled the two individuals “masked thugs.” He believed the men were arming themselves to protect their land.

The two men are members of the Aboriginal Warrior Society. They were taken into custody and then released without charges. They were participating in a program designed to curb the substantial rate of suicide in BC’s northern communities.

The program is a 24-day excursion in the Kingcome Outlet, and it will continue despite interference. Ten participants aged 21 to 55 are scheduled to take part in the outing.

All of the firearms were legally obtained. But the RCMP has not returned the weapons and other items confiscated, valued at $23,000. Criminal charges are pending while the investigation continues.

In a statement, the Union of B.C. Chiefs said the OITT is a step to reconnecting youth to the land and their culture.

“Indigenous communities live in a condition of impoverishment and economic dependency,” stated the BC Chiefs. “If we return to the land and learn to sustain ourselves again we can effectively address many of our poverty issues. To address this, the focus will be to reconnect the Indigenous person with their traditional way of life.”