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American Indigenous man’s right to hunt in Canada affirmed by Supreme Court

Canada's Supreme Court ruled that an American Indigenous man has a constitutionally protected right to hunt in B.C. given his people's historic ties to the region. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada says an American Indigenous man has a constitutionally protected right to hunt in British Columbia given his people’s historic ties to the region.

The decision today comes in the case of Richard Lee Desautel, a U.S. citizen who was charged with hunting without a licence after shooting an elk near Castlegar, B.C.

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Desautel defended his actions on the basis he had an Aboriginal right to hunt protected by section 35(1) of Canada’s Constitution Act.

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Desautel is a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington state, a successor of the Sinixt people, whose ancestral territory extended into B.C.

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The trial judge found the sections of B.C.’s Wildlife Act under which Desautel was charged had infringed his constitutional right to hunt in the province.

The decision was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court and the province’s Court of Appeal, prompting the Crown to take its case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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