Bourque James W

James W. Bourque was born in northern Alberta, Canada, to a Ukrainian mother and a Cree father. By the time he died in 1996, Bourque had profoundly affected the nature and practice of renewable resource management in the Northwest Territories.

Bourque grew up trapping and hunting, then became one of the first aboriginal park wardens in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories (1955-1963), and then a wildlife officer with the territorial government, working in several communities in the eastern and western Northwest Territories. In 1982, Bourque became deputy minister of renewable resources for the Government of the Northwest Territories, where he served until 1991. In that position, he had a significant effect on renewable resource policy—not only at the territorial level but also at the federal and international levels. For instance, Bourque helped to bring about changes to the international migratory waterfowl legislation, which then allowed aboriginal peoples to hunt birds in the spring months, a traditional activity that had been ignored and thus prohibited under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Bourque dedicated his career to ensuring that the traditional aboriginal ways of life, based on the land and its resources, be protected and enhanced. He perceived these lifestyles as meriting tremendous cultural and social importance, but also as the essence of sustainable economic opportunities. While he did not think of himself as a radical or politician in the strictest sense, Bourque's work resulted in practical effects on wildlife and environmental management practice by emphasizing the importance of listening to and serving the hunters and trappers of the Northwest Territories, and by advocating the role of the renewable resource economy in the region. Bourque's role as deputy minister allowed him extensive networks of influence; he was able to extend his ideas far beyond the Northwest Territories' borders, to Ottawa for instance, to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meetings, and to Europe during antitrapping campaigns. Bourque was the founding chairperson of the Fur Institute of Canada—established in Ottawa in 1983 on the initiative of the federal, provincial, and territorial wildlife ministers to pursue the work of the Federal-Provincial Committee for Humane Trapping—from 1984 to 1989, and in this regard led the defense of trappers against the animal rights movement.

In his work, Bourque encouraged acknowledgement of traditional (indigenous) environmental knowledge, and expected his officials' attention to the concerns and knowledge of the hunters and trappers of the Northwest Territories. After he left the territories, he carried on work on traditional knowledge and its application through electronic technology, founding The Centre for Traditional Knowledge at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. Bourque also worked for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1994-1996) serving as co-director of policy.

He held other political positions as well, including president of the Northwest Territories Métis Association (1980-1982) and as chairperson of the Northwest Territories' Commission for Constitutional Development (1991-1992).

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