Judge upholds hunting rights for First Nations from outside Saskatchewan

REGINA — Indigenous leaders are celebrating a court ruling that says First Nations hunters from outside Saskatchewan have a constitutional right to hunt in the province and don’t require a licence.

The ruling was made after a group of hunters from the Six Nations reserve in Ontario was charged with unlawful hunting offences in October 2018 and October 2017.

An agreed statement of facts says some of the group’s members were hunting for food in Moose Mountain Provincial Park, located about two hours from Regina near the Manitoba boundary.

Provincial court Judge Doug Kovatch in Regina said the issue was whether the group was exercising its rights under the Saskatchewan Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, which grants treaty First Nations the ability to hunt, fish and trap food on all unoccupied Crown land and other land.

The Crown argued that First Nations living in Saskatchewan and within the boundaries of treaties 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 can hunt anywhere in the province.

Prosecutors questioned why the province would have agreed to extend treaty hunting rights to First Nations living outside of Saskatchewan, and the agreement didn’t intend to open it up more broadly.

Kovatch disagreed, ruling the hunters from Ontario were clearly exercising their constitutional right to hunt for food.

A spokeswoman with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice said the Crown will appeal the decision.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said the ruling reaffirms that the treaty right to hunt knows no provincial boundaries.

FSIN vice-chief Heather Bear said she’s disappointed but not surprised the province is going to appeal.

“They just continue to disrespect our treaty and inherent rights,” Bear said Thursday. “And that’s our taxpayers’ money that pays for all of that.”

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