Appeal court dismisses treaty hunter's conviction for illegal hunting

A Manitoba man accused of illegal hunting after shooting a moose has had an acquittal reinstated after three Court of Appeal judges dismissed a conviction handed down in June.

Man shot a moose on private land which did not have signs posted

The hunter argued the judge did not properly review or apply a Supreme Court of Canada precedent. (CBC)

A Manitoba man convicted of illegal hunting after shooting a moose has had an acquittal reinstated, after three Court of Appeal judges dismissed a conviction handed down in June.

The man, a status Indian from Treaty 5 territory, had pleaded not guilty after he hunted a moose a day before the season opened, without a licence and on private land near Swift Current in September 2015.

He had been hunting for food and did not think the land, a slough with no homes around for miles, was being put to use. There were also no signs posted indicating the land was private.

He was acquitted in a provincial court but the reprieve was short-lived, as the decision was appealed. A Court of Queen's Bench judge overturned the acquittal and convicted the man on June 13, 2017.

Then, on April 27, the conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said it would be inappropriate to comment on the decision, as the 60-day window for filing yet another appeal is still open, and thus the case is still technically before the courts.

The facts of the case are not in dispute but the hunter appealed on the grounds that the Queen's Bench judge failed to correctly review and apply the precedent set in a Supreme Court of Canada Decision, R v. Badger.

According to that ruling, treaty status hunters can hunt for food on private land if it is not posted or does not appear to be cultivated.

"Having reviewed the evidence at trial, I am unable to find the trial judge's factual conclusion that the slough was not being visibly put to a use that was incompatible [with the hunter's rights assertion]," the decision reads.

"Many First Nations people rely on wildlife and plants for sustenance" said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice Chief Heather Bear in a statement.

"This decision affirms that the First Nations have a prior right of access to the wildlife of the province as part of our inherent and Treaty rights."