'A Huge Victory': Tribes Celebrate As Canadian Supreme Court Rules Indigenous People in U.S. Can Claim Aboriginal Rights in Canada


April 29, 2021

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, the nation's capital.

OTTAWA, Canada - Ten years ago, Rick Desautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) in Washington state, shot an elk in a subsistence hunt on what was once his people's traditional land-on the other side of the border in British Columbia, Canada.

When he reported the hunt to local officials, Desautel was charged with hunting without a license and hunting big game without Candian citizenship, according to court documents. He was twice acquitted by lower courts, who argued that Desautel had been exercising his constitutionally protected right to hunt in the traditional territory of his Indigenous community, the Sinixt people who historically resided in Canada. But the Candian government appealed on the basis that Desautel's tribe did not meet the threshold of continuity of practice to establish an "Aboriginal right" under the Canadian constitution.

Last Friday, Desautel was vindicated once and for all when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Native Americans whose territory straddles the international border can claim Aboriginal rights in Canada, even if they aren't residents or citizens.



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