Nfld. & Labrador

Photos, video of dozens of dead caribou evidence at Innu hunting trial

Hundreds of photographs of a caribou slaughter in Labrador are before the provincial court in Labrador, evidence of an alleged illegal hunt by Innu in 2013.

First public look at graphic evidence gathered by fish and wildlife officers in 2013

Wildlife officers took this photo in 2013 of caribou being loaded onto komatiks after a hunting expedition in Labrador. (Department of Justice/Fish and wildlife division)

Hundreds of photographs of a caribou slaughter in Labrador are before the provincial court in Labrador, evidence of an alleged illegal hunt by Innu.

The 300 photos and 30 videos were taken by fish and wildlife officers in 2013 and show bloody kill sites with dozens of caribou carcasses. 

They also depict men transporting the dead animals by komatik — a traditional sled — and loading them onto a small plane.

One of the hunting camps photographed by wildlife officers who were investigating a tip about a kill in the protected George River herd. (Dept. of Justice/Fish and wildlife division)

Ten men from Sheshashiu are accused of illegally hunting caribou from the George River herd in Labrador, less than two months after the province brought in a five-year ban on killing animals from the herd.

The men have pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawfully possessing big game, obstructing or resisting a wildlife officer, and failure to comply with big game licence requirements.

Photos questioned as proof of identity

Much of this week has been taken up with a voir dire, which is covered by a publication ban, with lawyers arguing over what should be accepted as evidence in the trial.

Wildlife officers found dozens of caribou carcasses at two sites in Labrador. (Dept. of Justice/Fish and wildlife division)

Earlier in the trial, fish and wildlife officers have testified that they saw dead caribou and Innu hunters in the Shipiskan and Snegamook Lake areas of Labrador in January, February and March of 2013. 

The accused were identified by officers from some of the photos entered by the Crown.

But the judge and defence have raised questions about how, and whether, witnesses can identify the accused based on those pictures and video — some of which were taken from the air, others from the ground.

Aboriginal rights 

The identification of the suspects is only one avenue the defence plans to use to represent its clients.

Randy Malleck, one of 10 Innu charged with illegal hunting, photographed by fish and wildlife officers investigating a caribou kill in 2013. (Dept. of Justice/Fish and wildlife division)

If the judge finds enough evidence that the accused were hunting, the defence says it will argue that it is their Aboriginal right to do so.

When the hunting ban was announced in January 2013, former grand chief Prote Poker said it was an infringement on the Innu traditional way of life, and they would continue to take 300 animals a year

Fish and wildlife officers testified earlier in the trial that they found what they described as an Innu Nation caribou hunting permit at one of the kill sites.

A photograph of caribou being loaded aboard a Wilderness North Air plane. The company was fined $1,000. (Dept. of Justice/Fish and wildlife division)

An Ontario-based charter aircraft company, Wilderness North Air of Thunder Bay, had its plane detained and searched during the 2013 investigation.

Pilots admitted to transporting caribou to Sheshatshiu. The company pleaded guilty to possession of big game animals in violation of the Wildlife Act, and paid a $1,000 fine.

The trial is expected to adjourn until another court date in the fall.

With files from John Gaudi

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