Premier Brian Pallister faced more criticism from both a rural politician and an indigenous leader after he described the conflict over the issue of night hunting as a “race war”.

Pallister made the comments Monday in Virden to a crowd of about 60 to 70 Conservatives, CJ Radio reporter Heather Reimer told CTV News.

Scott Phillips, a councillor in the RM of Sifton, said he disagrees with the practice of night hunting -- also called spotlight hunting, but he also disagrees with the premier’s choice of words.

“It was a silly, animated speech,” said Phillips. “There was a lot of truth to what he said, however the part that’s not true is, this is not a race war. All the indigenous groups that we’ve been talking to over the last half year, two years, this is in no way a race issue. This is a safety issue.”

Phillips said people in his community have complained about livestock being shot, as well as farming equipment getting damaged. He wants the province to make the practice of night hunting illegal, something he said they promised to do during the last election.

READ MORE: 'It's becoming a race war': Pallister on night hunting issue

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said indigenous groups want to come to a solution that addresses the safety concerns of rural residents while respecting the rights of indigenous hunters.

Currently, status First Nations people have the right to hunt between the hours of sunset and sunrise, but others don’t.

“I think that the issue of hunting and specifically night hunting is definitely a discussion that needs to be had, but to promote an inflammatory discussion is not adding, and it’s not helping build solutions going forward. So, we’re obviously very disappointed in the choice of wording by the premier.”

Nepinak said hunting provides a way for indigenous youth to regain their identities after being cut off from their traditional lands.

“We have young people that need to learn the traditions and the customs and the language of our people, and they do that often by going out on the land and participating in the traditional hunt. But we also need to validate the safety concerns being raised by the rural community.”

Manitoba Conservation officials said there has been an increase in cases of night hunting and dangerous hunting over the past year. They said nearly 50 cases of night or dangerous hunting are proceeding through the courts, with 14 vehicles and 44 long-barrel rifles and shotguns seized by officers in 2016.

On Friday, Pallister released a statement saying consultations show there is a shared about the issue, including in First Nation communities.

“Tensions have escalated and we remain concerned about the risk of vigilante behavior,” the statement read.

“Our government is pursuing a consultative process which will include all parties to this issue in order to ensure that public safety and wildlife conservation are at the center of any enhanced enforcement initiatives intended to curtail this dangerous practice. Safety and sustainability must remain our paramount focus.”