Guilty pleas end unlawful hunting case that sparked outrage over treaty rights

Guilty pleas end unlawful hunting case in Saskatchewan.

(Charlie Boucher at his hunting cabin in early 2016. Photo: Trina Roache/APTN)

The Canadian Press
A case that sparked outrage from Indigenous leaders over treaty rights has ended with two men from the Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba pleading guilty to charges of unlawful hunting on property near Canora, Sask.

Charlie Boucher, 55, who is also the chief of the First Nation, and George Lamirande, 40, were each fined a total of $7,500 for unlawfully hunting on posted land, unlawful possession of wildlife and illegally transporting wildlife to another province.

Earlier this year, Boucher and other Aboriginal leaders said their treaty right to provide food for their families wasn’t being understood.

Government officials say that in Saskatchewan, individuals exercising treaty rights to hunt for food must ask for prior permission to hunt on private land.

In January, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Indigenous hunters were being harassed by farmers who feel the hunters have been trespassing on private land for decades.

At the time, Boucher said Indigenous people had been hunting on the land long before Canada or its provinces existed.

“The Creator gave me that authority to harvest and take,” Boucher said. “I beg for us to be understood.”

Police rolled into Boucher’s community of Pine Creek with a number of cars, a K-9 unit along with conservation officers from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Moose meat was confiscated during the raid.

Boucher could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Nepinak argued in January that while diabetes rates are soaring among First Nations, his people are being denied access to traditional, healthy food while at the same time, Saskatchewan hands out thousands of moose tags to sport hunters every year.

Nepinak demanded a meeting on the issue with Premier Brad Wall, but Wall said treaty rights don’t trump private property rights or the need for a province to manage its wildlife.

On Thursday, Saskatchewan’s Environment Department issued a news release saying that conservation officers investigated a complaint last December about three moose being shot on land that was posted as off-limits to hunters.

The landowner told investigators he observed three moose being loaded into two trucks on his land, and provided the officers with a Manitoba licence plate from one of the vehicles.

The investigation included search warrants being issued at two residences on the Pine Creek First Nation and DNA testing on the moose meat comparing it to samples collected at the kill site.

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