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

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

Just Posted

Police are investigating after a man was killed at a home on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police investigating early-morning murder in Duncan

One arrested after man killed at Cowichan Lake Road home

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Firefighters from three departments battled a house fire south of Nanaimo for more than nine hours Sunday. (Photo courtesy Martin Leduc)
Home in Cedar destroyed by fire

Firefighters from three fire departments battle blaze fanned by strong winds Sunday

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in fatal Chemainus hit-and-run

Investigation expected to be lengthy and involved

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Public to avoid the wooded areas around Queneesh Elementary

The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre has reopened with 45 shelter spots for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria. (Courtesy of Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre)
Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre shelter in Victoria reopens with spots for 45 people

Arena is an interim step until long-term housing is found

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Most Read