Court decision on rights on the west coast may affect Indigenous people in the east

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FREDERICTON — A recent Supreme Court decision about Indigenous hunting rights on the west coast may have implications for First Nations groups who straddle the Maine - New Brunswick border on the opposite side of the country.

The April 23 decision says an American Indigenous man has a constitutionally protected right to hunt in British Columbia given his people's historic ties to the region.

Richard Lee Desautel, a U.S. citizen, was charged with hunting without a licence after shooting an elk near Castlegar, B.C., but defended his actions on the basis he had an Aboriginal right to hunt protected by section 35 of Canada's Constitution Act.

Now members of the Peskotomuhkati Nation - with communities in New Brunswick and Maine - say their citizens have the same rights, and they expect the Government of Canada to honour them.

Peskotomuhkati Chief Hugh Akagi says negotiations need to begin, adding he hopes they will result in justice for his people and respect for treaties.

He says a deal was reached three years ago that allows band members from Maine to hunt moose in New Brunswick, and believes it can be a template for a future agreement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press