Indigenous man denied return of guns following seizure

Firearms seized by RCMP will not be returned to Benjamin James Jackson, a member of the McLeod Lake Indian Band, but his licence will.

An appeal from Jackson was sought for the return of the 12 weapons, after he was arrested and released by RCMP on March 19, 2023 on an undertaking relating to an allegation that he uttered or conveyed a threat to injure an animal.

The firearms and one possession and acquisition licence (PAL) were seized by police from Jackson's residence, and he submitted that the RCMP failed to make an application extend the detention order and that there were no proceedings where the seized items would be required.

The RCMP filed applied for the detention of the seized items on Apr. 24, 2023, and on Apr. 26, 2023, a Justice of the Peace ordered the seized items be detained “for a period of three months from the date of seizure, unless...proceedings are instituted in which the thing(s) detained may be required," noted a Jan. 29 provincial court ruling.

Jackson also filed an affidavit explaining that he uses firearms for sustenance hunting of game and fowl for himself, his family, and community members, in addition to volunteering time to mentor youth with cultural activities, which includes hunting and preparing game.

Letters of support were attached to the affidavit from his mother, Doris Jackson, his father Bruce Jackson and Band Chief Harley Chingee, all emphasizing the community’s reliance Jackson’s hunting skills in providing food and for ensuring the continuance of cultural activities.

In the ruling, Justice Michael J. Brecknell said he was disappointed that an arrangement wasn't made to allow a 'duly licenced' third party to keep some or all the seized weapons, who could release them to Jackson as needed for both sustenance and cultural activities.

"I am disappointed that Mr. Jackson’s obvious hunting expertise will not be available to provide for himself, his family and his community. This decision will also interfere with an important part of Mr. Jackson’s cultural activities; something the Crown made clear in its submissions it considered to be of little or no importance," wrote Brecknell.

However, Brecknell said he was required to uphold the criminal code, and was not persuaded by Jackson that the items wouldn't be needed for trial, which is scheduled for May 17 in Mackenzie. Jackson remains charged with uttering threats to kill an animal or bird, with a verdict yet to be delivered.

"If he did utter a threat as alleged did he have the means to carry out the threat by utilizing one of the seized firearms," wrote Brecknell. "The seized items may not be firearms. In order to determine that they may need to be forensically examined by an expert qualified in that area."

There may also need to be evidence establishing whether Jackson owned the firearms and if he was legally permitted to possess them, he added.

However, Jackson's licence will be returned, explained Brecknell, as the licence is necessary documentation for potentially being able to hunt under a release order.

"The immediate return of those documents is required so that in the event he is in possession of any firearm under a release order he will not have any issues with an RCMP member or a Conservation Officer who may stop him," Brecknell noted.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alaska Highway News