Native rights defence quashed in illegal hunting case

Two Cape Breton men have been convicted of illegal hunting after failing in a bid to invoke their native rights.

2 men argued hunting at night is covered under treaty rights

Two Cape Breton men have been convicted of illegal hunting after failing in a bid to invoke their native rights.

Aaron Paul and Charles Francis, members of the Eskasoni First Nation, were caught in a sting operated by Department of Natural Resources officers.

On the night of Sept. 25, 2006 Paul and Francis shot at what they thought was a moose.  Turns out, it was a decoy set up by officers, who descended on Francis and Paul with guns drawn and lights flashing.

Paul and Francis were driving around at night, trying to spot moose using the headlights on their pickup truck. They intended to mesmerize the animal with the bright lights and then shoot it.

Paul and Francis never disputed the facts of the incident. Instead, they argued that as Mi'kmaq, they had a treaty right to hunt at night. That complicated their trial on charges under the provincial Wildlife Act.

The trial in Nova Scotia provincial court took 12 days, spread out over nearly two years.

The judge heard from experts in Mi'kmaq history, hunting practices and treaty rights, in addition to witnesses to the actual incident.

In the end, Judge David Ryan concluded that using bright light to hunt at night was not an integral part of native hunting practices and so he convicted them.

Paul and Francis were fined $250.