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Judge rules First Nations from outside of Sask. have constitutional right to hunt

Deyowidro't heads back in after an unsuccessful deer harvest in Short Hills Provincial Park on Dec 5 2017.
Deyowidro't heads back in after an unsuccessful deer harvest in Short Hills Provincial Park on Dec 5 2017. Fred Lum / The Canadian Press

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.

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 border.

READ MORE: B.C. Appeal Court says American Indigenous man has right to hunt in Canada

Regina Judge Doug Kovatch says 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.

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The decision outlines how the Crown argued 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.

The Crown 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.

READ MORE: B.C. court recognizes ‘extinct’ Indigenous group, upholds U.S. Aboriginal man’s right to hunt in Canada

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

A spokeswoman from the Ministry of Justice says the Crown will appeal the decision.

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

In a statement, vice-chief Heather Bear told the province to stop wasting money by challenging treaty rights.