Metis in Alberta have officially filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada, asking the high court to rule on a harvesting rights case.
In 2007, Metis hunter Gary Hirsekorn shot a mule deer in the Cypress Hills portion of southeastern Alberta.
He was participating in a community hunt that was held after the Alberta government unilaterally imposed its own harvesting decision on the Metis.
Hirsekorn was charged and convicted.
The case was appealed, but an appeal court upheld the conviction.
Now, the lawyers representing Hirsekorn are hoping the Supreme Court will wade into the fray.
Lawyer Jason Madden works for the Metis National Council and filed the documents today.
He argues the case is tied to the famous Powley Decision of a decade ago, when the high court sided with two Metis men who were charged with illegally hunting moose.
The case was seen as a watershed mark for Metis rights across the land.
However, Madden says courts across the Prairies have been interpreting the decision in a variety of different ways when it comes to harvesting rights:
“What you’re seeing is some courts recognizing harvesting rights, some courts not recognizing harvesting rights, Metis not knowing whether they can move without losing their rights, as well as in Saskatchewan and Alberta, there’s no negotiated harvesting agreements in place that recognize Metis harvesting rights and it’s ten years after Powley and one would think that those would be in place.”
He says challenges currently revolve around specific communities with a circle around them and an examination of that community, and its ties to Metis hunters.
Madden says this doesn’t make sense, because it’s been well-documented that Metis hunters roamed around following the buffalo in a migratory pattern:
“The question we’re really putting to the court is we don’t think that the answer can be that the buffalo hunters of the Prairies don’t have hunting rights. The one thing that they were known for is that they were hunters and they used the Prairies in their entirety.”
Right now, he says the Powley decision doesn’t seem to be getting applied to Prairie Metis because hunters, like Gary Hirsekorn, continue to get charged.
He expects the Supreme Court to announce whether or not it will hear the case in January.
If it accepts the request, he estimates arguments could begin in the fall of 2014.