A Metis man in Alberta is facing charges for accepting fish from a First Nations fisher breaking the fish and wildlife laws.
Dwayne Roth is representing Kenton Klein who accepted 22 whitefish and 20 bags of walleye.
“Kenton has been going up to Fort Chip for many, many years,” said Roth. “He knows a lot of people in the community. Sharing of food between Aboriginal peoples is not that uncommon up here.”
In March 2018, Lee Ladouceur, a Dene man from Fort Chipewyan said he gave Klein the fish as a gift for helping him out.
Klein was then caught with the fish and charged with eight counts under both federal and provincial laws for accepting fish.
According to a statement provided by Alberta Fish and Wildlife, “Fish caught under the authority of a Treaty Right are only able to be shared with family members of the individual who caught the fish, and may not be gifted to any other persons who are not also an Indian.”
Fort Chipewyan is one of Alberta’s oldest settlements and is home to the Dene, Mikisew Cree and Metis.
The northern remote hamlet sits on the shores of Lake Athabasca, one of the largest sources of food for the people who live there.
Sharing harvested food between First Nations and Metis has always taken place.
We help one another,” said Elder Raymond Ladouceur. “Since I can remember since I was a child my grandfather did that, my parents did the same and I did that since I was young.”
The community of Fort Chipewyan is on edge.
Lee Ladouceur is also facing charges for fishing without an Indian Domestice Fishing License.
Raymond Ladouceur says society has to change.
“I think white man’s got to start realizing, let us have our ways the way we were,” he said. “Help one another, feed one another. It’s shameful to try to charge us, charge the people. I disagree with that. Let us live the way we lived, we never bothered anybody, we help one another.
“What if I went south, somewhere south in the city and there’s a white man that’s hungry there and has nothing for his family, I can’t give him some fish to feed his family? That’s totally wrong.”
Robert Grandjambe is Cree and owns a dog team that he takes tourists out on.
He regularly has a net out on Lake Athabasca which he pulls to feed his family and his dog team.
“They put in so many laws now that effect the traditional way of life. And one of them is an example of not being able to share. It’s actually illegal to share anything or give anything away anymore. That’s not our law,” said Grandjambe.
“Why is it that another group of people has infringed on somebody’s way of life it’s really not fair.”
Grandjambe also said there needs to be some boundaries when it comes to harvesting.
“We should not be able to kill 15 moose a year it’s our right to do so but we should not be allowed to because we’ve evolved as a human species to take and take and take we don’t know when to stop,” he said.
“We’ve become a very greedy nation.”
Another issue, is the Crown doesn’t feel Klein is a historic Metis in northern Alberta. Klein has lived in Athabasca most of his life and can trace his roots to the Red River, but he was born in Saskatchewan.
“So we have to look at ‘what is a historic Metis?’” Roth said, “We’re trying to say that it’s the Metis Nation from the Red River to the Rockies. That is our historic Metis community and we’re putting that to the test as well.’
Roth said there has not been a case that has been successful in establishing Metis hunting and fishing rights – but this one could do just that.
“To have that precedent out there that there is Metis rights in the heart of the billion dollar oil sands industry will change the dynamic,” said Roth. “It will provide the Metis communities with a bit more leverage when it comes to dealing with oil sands industry because they will be able to say ‘here’s a case that establishes that we have Aboriginal rights in this area.’”
Neither Lee Ladouceur or Klein can speak with the media while their case is before the court.
The judge in the case has set aside 23 days for the hearings that are expected to take place in early 2020.