Medicine Hat, AB (May 12, 2009) – After seven days of testimony from Métis community witnesses from throughout the province, Alberta’s first Métis harvesting rights trial – R. v. Jones, Bates and Hirsekorn – adjourned today until the Fall of 2009.
The trial involves three Métis harvesters who were charged for hunting without a license, as a part of traditional Métis hunts near the Cypress Hills and Pincher Creek in the fall of 2007. These Métis harvesters are defending themselves based on the constitutionally protected harvesting right of the Métis in Alberta. The harvesting rights of the Métis were recognized in 2003 in a landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Powley.
Since May 4th, the Alberta Provincial Court in Medicine Hat has heard first-hand evidence about Métis culture, harvesting, way of life, mobility and kinship connections throughout Alberta. Métis witnesses provided testimony about locations across Alberta, including, Cypress Hills, Pincher Creek, Calgary, Sundre, Tail Creek, Grand Prairie, Rocky Mountain House, High Prairie, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, Lac St. Anne, Lac La Biche, Bonnyville, Elizabeth Métis Settlement, Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement. As well, witnesses testified about Métis mobility and connections to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Montana.
“While the Métis Nation is disappointed with the Alberta Government’s denial of Métis rights, we are pleased to be moving forward on having our rights recognized in the courts,” said Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. “Through this trial, our people have the wonderful opportunity to share our often untold story in our own voices. We look forward to having our constitutional rights recognized by the courts.”
Poitras added, “Based on this case, the Alberta Government will no longer be able to deny Métis rights exist in Alberta or take the position that Métis do not need to be consulted and accommodated on development occurring throughout this province. Government and industry need to be aware of the potential impacts flowing from Ted Morton forcing Métis into the courts.”
The trial is expected to take another 7 weeks of court time and to be finished in early 2010. The next phase of the trial is set to begin in mid-September 2009 when expert witnesses will provide testimony on the Métis of the Northwest, the fur trade, Métis genealogy and Métis culture.
Additional Métis community witnesses will also be called in the Fall of 2009, including, the MNA President Audrey Poitras, the MNA Registrar and Métis community witnesses from northern, central and southern Alberta.
For more information about the case and Métis harvesting in Alberta visit http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx