American hunter Richard Desautel (centre) is seen here outside a courthouse in Nelson after his first legal victory in 2017. The provincial Crown has asked for leave to appeal Desautel’s case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Canada’s top court asked to hear appeal of American Indigenous man’s hunting rights

Defendent Richard Desautel has already won three court challenges

The B.C. government has requested leave to appeal Richard Desautel’s historic hunting case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Desautel, the American hunter who shot and killed an elk near Castlegar in 2010, was originally found not guilty of hunting without a licence and hunting without being a resident in a Nelson provincial court in March 2017.

Judge Lisa Mrozinski ruled at the time that Desautel had ancestral hunting rights as a Sinixt despite the First Nation being ruled extinct by the federal government in 1956. The Sinixt traditional territory included the Arrow Lakes in the Kootenays and extended from present-day Kettle Falls in Washington state to north of Revelstoke.

That decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of B.C. in December 2017 and again by the B.C. Court of Appeal last May.

On July 30, the Crown sent a memorandum of argument to the Supreme Court of Canada that requests leave to appeal.

“The guidance of this court in addressing whether Indigenous communities outside Canada may hold Aboriginal rights within Canada and ancillary issues arising therefrom is of national importance and raises issues that have never been wholly addressed by this court,” concludes the memorandum.

The next step will be for the Supreme Court to decide if it wants to hear the case. There’s no deadline for that decision to be made.



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