Kristjan Pierone, right, with FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear. Saskatoon The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations calls it a victory for treaty and inherent rights.
The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday declined to hear an appeal in the case of an Indigenous man who was charged after shooting a moose on private land. The decision means his lower court acquittal stands.
“We’ve always maintained that our treaties, our inherent rights, have trumped provincial law. They are of international law,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron told reporters at a news conference following the court’s decision.
“It sends a strong message right across Canada for all our First Nations people that we were the original people of these lands … It’s a message to all those that our inherent and treaty rights are still alive and still strong.”
The Supreme Court’s decision comes three years after a Saskatchewan conservation officer charged Kristjan Pierone, who is from northern Manitoba, under the Wildlife Act for hunting where he was not allowed.
Pierone had shot a bull moose in an uncultivated slough about 70 metres off a grid road near Swift Current. The slough was on private land that hadn’t been farmed for a few years; there was no fence and no signs prohibiting hunting.
He was acquitted by a provincial court judge, but the Crown appealed and he was subsequently convicted by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal subsequently overturned that conviction.
Appeal Court Justice Neal Caldwell found the Queen’s Bench judge made an error in law, ruling that Pierone had the right to hunt in the slough because it had not been “taken up” for any “visible, incompatible use.”
“It gives me a great feeling to know I carry on that tradition,” Pierone told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix earlier this year .
Cameron echoed that sentiment on Thursday, saying the case “hit home” for many First Nations hunters, including himself. Asked how he expects the decision to be applied in practice, he emphasized the need for communication.
“We hope everyone is respectful, and we hope everyone is safe.”
The Supreme Court does not provide reasons for its decisions. It awarded costs to Pierone for bringing the application.
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