OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada announced, April 29, that it would only hear a handful of cases - via video-conference - in June, and all other cases that had been scheduled would be postponed through the regular fall session, set to start Oct. 5.

This includes the Colville Tribes’ landmark Rick Desautel-Sinxit V. British Columbia case that had been scheduled for the Supreme Court on May 12.

In a press release, Chief Justice Richard Wagner is quoted to say, ““I want to thank everyone for their continued cooperation and flexibility during this challenging time. Your creativity and resourcefulness have helped ensure that we continue to deliver the justice our duty to parties and all Canadians requires.”

The Colville Business Council had announced in Oct. 2019 they received news the Supreme Court of Canada had granted leave to appeal in the case.

Three lower courts had held that Desautel, and by extension all Sinixt/Arrow Lakes people, have the right to hunt in their traditional territory in Canada.

A CBC press release in May 2, 2019, which announced a win in the Court of Appeal for British Columbia noted, “The sn̓ʕay̓ckstx or Lakes Tribe is one of twelve represented by the CCT.  For thousands of years the sn̓ʕay̓ckstx occupied a sizable territory in what is now British Columbia, and moved back and forth across what they view as an artificial boundary between the United States (U.S.) and Canada.  When the border was established in 1846, sn̓ʕay̓ckstx people on the ‘U.S. side’ encountered increasing difficulties in exercising their rights north of the border, including the passage of a law in 1896 that made it illegal to hunt in their Canadian territory.  Ultimately, many sn̓ʕay̓ckstx were forced to settle south of the border, and were declared ‘extinct’ in Canada in 1956. The Court of Appeal affirmed that the rights of the sn̓ʕay̓ckstx endure despite this displacement, stating:

Imposing a requirement that Indigenous peoples may only hold Aboriginal rights in Canada if they occupy the same geographical area in which their ancestors exercised those rights, ignores the Aboriginal perspective, the realities of colonization and does little towards achieving the ultimate goal of reconciliation.  In this case, such a requirement would extinguish Mr. Desautel’s right to hunt in the traditional territory of his ancestors even though the rights of his community were never voluntarily surrendered, abandoned or extinguished….”

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