Métis hunter allowed to appeal ‘hunt for justice’ conviction

The hunting conviction of an Alberta Metis man will be heard by the province’s Court of Appeal. Garry Hirsekorn was charged for hunting a mule deer out of season near the Cypress Hills in southeastern Alberta in 2007.

CALGARY — The hunting conviction of an Alberta Metis man will be heard by the province’s Court of Appeal.

Garry Hirsekorn was charged for hunting a mule deer out of season near the Cypress Hills in southeastern Alberta in 2007.

It was part of a “hunt for justice” launched by the Metis Nation of Alberta, who argue that Metis should have the same constitutional hunting rights as aboriginals.

Hirsekorn was convicted and last year, a Queen’s Bench ruling upheld the lower court decision but left the door open for further appeal to the province’s highest court.

In granting leave to appeal, Justice Constance Hunt says that to achieve aboriginal rights protected in the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s Powley test “should be modified when applied to prairie Metis.”

That 2003 decision put the onus on the defence to prove the existence of a historic Metis community if hunting rights were to be recognized.

“It’s like telling Christians they can’t have Christmas,” said Hirsekorn of denying hunting rights to Metis.

“Once this goes to the Supreme Court and it’s all settled they won’t be able to do this to us anymore.”

The Alberta government has argued the Metis were not present as a community in the province’s south until after 1874 and the arrival of the North West Mounted Police.

The province only recognizes the Metis right to hunt around several northern Alberta settlements.

“What we say is these people were a mobile people throughout the plains before Canada was Canada and that’s what’s protected,” said defence lawyer Jason Madden.