Kamloops this week
A First Nations couple found guilty last year of trafficking wildlife is asking a judge to throw out the convictions based on aboriginal rights — privileges they argue allow them to continue “pre-contact customs” even if they violate today’s laws.
Jay Coutts and Farah Palmer were convicted in May following a trial in Kamloops provincial court. Both were found guilty of trafficking in wildlife, while Coutts was convicted of an additional count of hunting during prohibited hours.
Coutts, 50, and Palmer, 44, were caught selling deer meat in 2013 by undercover conservation officers.
During trial, Crown prosecutor Joel Gold referred to Coutts and Palmer’s operation as “an ongoing business.”
In court Monday, Palmer argued First Nations people have the right to carry on as their ancestors did prior to non-aboriginal contact. Palmer referenced a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees aboriginal rights to First Nations people.
Palmer said aboriginal rights allow First Nations people to “harvest, barter and trade in wildlife” and said laws restricting such guarantees are “of no force and effect.”
According to Palmer, she and Coutts only have to prove their actions have ties to “pre-contact activity” by First Nations people.
The hearing is scheduled to run all week before Kamloops provincial court Judge Roy Dickey.