June 12, 2013 - 6:58pm By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Man says Metis heritage allows hunting free of rules on seasons
YARMOUTH — A decision is now expected to be handed down on Oct. 17 in the case of Shelburne County resident Jack Hatfield, who shot a deer out of season 10 years ago to prove a point.
Hatfield, 59, claims his aboriginal heritage allows him to hunt without regard to prescribed seasons or licences.
In Yarmouth provincial court Tuesday, Judge Robert Prince said he would reserve his decision in Hatfield’s constitutional challenge for four more months.
Hatfield and his supporters rely on a 2003 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that recognizes the right of Metis people to hunt and fish.
In 1993, two Metis brothers in north-central Ontario killed a bull moose for food, say media reports, including stories from The Chronicle Herald.
The men were charged, but 10 years later, in 2003, they were acquitted by the country’s top court on grounds that Metis are unique and part of the aboriginal fabric of Canada.
A few weeks later, on Oct. 17, 2003, Hatfield walked out of the woods just north of French Lake, Yarmouth County, dragging a disembowelled, 50-kilogram carcass of a young buck behind him.
He’d brought down the deer with a single shot from his war-surplus, .303-calibre rifle.
Hatfield and some supporters then drove the deer to a Natural Resources depot in Tusket, where a couple of conservation officers waited for them in the parking lot.
One of the officers read Hatfield his rights and gave him a police caution but did not arrest him.
“Are you going to let me have my deer? … Nine judges in Ottawa told me I had the right to go hunting,” Hatfield said at the time.
“Today, we’re going to seize that deer. … More than likely you will be charged,” responded the officer.
A few weeks later, Hatfield was convicted of hunting without a licence and illegally possessing a deer carcass.
He was fined $215 on each count.
Hatfield later had the convictions vacated because he was not in the court at the time of sentencing.
The case has been wending its way through the courts since then.
Ken Swim of Clam Point, Cape Sable Island, is chief of the Cape Sable Aboriginal Society, a Metis group.
“I think that we have won it. I really do,” Swim said this week.
Swim has done much of the defence work since 2006.
“We never got a lawyer,” he said.
Society members claim an aboriginal heritage.
“Our forefathers … came from Massachusetts. They were invited to Nova Scotia,” Swim said, referring to the British government of the time, wanting to repopulate areas vacated by the expulsion of the Acadians.
Many came and stayed in western Shelburne County.
“They were Metis in the (United) States,” Swim said, referring to their mixed heritage.
He said the local society recognize themselves as Wampanoag, a tribe in Massachusetts belonging to the Algonquin family.
Swim said they can document marriages involving seven aboriginal families with English settlers in New England before they came to Nova Scotia.
“We gave (the court) death, burial, marriage certificates … through Massasoit,” a famous chief, Swim said.
Hatfield was in court this week in Yarmouth with Swim and some other supporters. He did not comment on the case as he left the building.