The B.C. government is again appealing a court decision that appears to re-define the status of the Sinixt First Nation in Canada.
In Nelson’s B.C. Provincial Court in March 2017, Richard Desautel, a Sinixt man and U.S. citizen, was found not guilty of shooting an elk out of season in Canada as a non-resident. Judge Lisa Mrozinski ruled that Sinixt hunting rights in Canada have endured to the present day and that even though he did not live in Canada he was part of an aboriginal “rights-bearing group.”
The provincial government appealed that decision to the B.C. Supreme Court. Justice Robert Sewell denied the appeal in December, ruling that the existence of the Sinixt in their territory before contact give them an aboriginal right to hunt there.
Now the province is taking the case to the B.C. Court of Appeal on the grounds that Mrozinzki was mistaken in including the Sinixt as aboriginal peoples of Canada as defined in the Constitution, and that she erred in her interpretation of the case law that defines aboriginal rights, as well as on the rightful effect of the U.S.-Canada border on the Sinixt.
Sinixt traditional territory spans the border. In 1951 the federal government declared the Sinixt extinct in Canada.
“We are certain we will win in the end, wherever this case leads,” said Michael Marchand of the Confederated Colville Tribes in a news release. “It is simply a fact that the sn̓ʕay̓ckstx people exist, both in Canada and on the Colville Reservation, and their rights can no longer be ignored.”
The B.C. Court of Appeal does not sit in Nelson, and the case is expected to be heard in Vancouver later this year. The next level of appeal would be the Supreme Court of Canada.
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