Sinixt hunter Richard Desautel at the Nelson courthouse in 2017. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

UPDATED: Canada’s top court agrees to hear B.C.’s appeal on aboriginal hunting rights

Decision could reverse the Sinixt people’s status as extinct in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has given the B.C. government the go-ahead to appeal an aboriginal hunting case that started in a Nelson, B.C., court almost three years ago.

Richard Desautel, a Sinixt man who lives in Washington State, was charged in B.C. with hunting without a licence and hunting without being a resident. He was acquitted in B.C. Provincial Court in Nelson in 2017.

The judge found that Desautel had an aboriginal right to hunt in the Sinixt traditional territory, which straddles the U.S.-Canada border, and that the B.C. hunting laws he was charged with are an infringement of that right.

The Sinixt were declared extinct in Canada in 1956. The 2017 decision potentially opened the door to Sinixt rights and status in Canada.

The provincial government appealed the case to the B.C. Supreme Court and lost.

The court decision stated that the Sinixt are legitimately aboriginal people under the Constitution of Canada.

The province appealed that decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal and lost again.

The province then applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal.

The date of the hearing has not been announced.

Mark Underhill, lawyer for the Sinixt, told the Star the province’s main argument is that because the Sinixt are American citizens they can’t hold rights in Canada.

If the court agrees, that will be the end of the matter, Underhill said.

But if the court sides with the Sinixt, their extinct status could be overturned. In fact, Underhill says it has already been overturned.

“The evidence is that this was their territory, that is a proven fact now,” he said, referring to the B.C. Court of Appeal decision currently under appeal. “The extinction declaration is done, it is history, from our point of view. So it disappointing to have the provincial government continue to fight this.”

Asked by the Star for the reason the province is pursuing the case, the provincial Attorney General’s office said it would not comment because the matter is before the courts.

MLAs Katrine Conroy and Michelle Mungall, in whose ridings much of the Sinixt traditional territory sits, were not available for comment.

On Thursday the B.C. legislature formally recognized the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Underhill said there is considerable interest in this appeal from other First Nations groups whose territory crosses the international border in eastern Canada and in the Yukon. He said he expects some of them to intervene in the case.

The date of the Supreme Court of Canada hearing has not been announced.

Related:

• Sinixt hunter acquitted in Nelson court

• U.S. hunter defends Sinixt rights in Nelson court

• Province loses Sinixt hunting appeal

• B.C. appeals Sinixt hunting case again

• B.C.’s top court upholds Sinixt rights in elk-hunting case

• Canada’s top court asked to hear appeal of Sinixt man’s hunting rights

• B.C. to be first to implement UN Indigenous rights declaration

This story was updated on Oct. 25 to include all of the material following the first mention of lawyer Mark Underhill.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Uber wants court to stop Surrey ‘from issuing illegal tickets’

Ride-hailing company trying to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

Semiahmoo First Nation to have potable water ‘for sure’ by summer

Chief Harley Chappell attributes six-month delay to unforeseen circumstances

McCallum declares Feb. 1, 2020 RCMP ‘Appreciation Day’ in Surrey

This year is the centennial anniversary of the national police force

LETTER: MAiD – Grateful for the choice

One local letter writer encourages people to voice their thoughts on medically assisted dying

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site move forward

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

160 Canadians have asked for help to leave province at centre of coronavirus outbreak

Police search north of Williams Lake prompts warning to residents to stay inside

Officers also warn drivers near Lynes Creek Road not to pick up pedestrians

60% of Canadian workers would take a pay cut for better mental health support: survey

Survey found 77% of workers would leave for better wellness initiatives

Runaway rail car reported on same B.C. train line as fatal 2019 derailment

CP Rail confirmed the incident happened on Jan. 14.

Fraser Valley homeless advocate killed by RCMP leaves behind complicated legacy

Barry Shantz was shot by Lytton police officers after six-hour standoff on Jan. 13

Body found in vehicle at bottom of Mission ravine

Deceased male appears to be the lone occupant of the vehicle, discovered on Dewdney Trunk Road

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in August 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Most Read