Safari Club International Alberta Chapter (ABSCI) and Public Action for Wildlife Society (PAWS) set record straight on Kelley Appeal and Métis hunting rights 

For Immediate Release
February 10, 2007

Calgary, AB – February 10, 2007 – (PR Newswire). Tired of reading claims that a recent Court of Queen's Bench decision grants extensive hunting and fishing rights to all Métis people, two Alberta wildlife groups are trying to set the record straight.

On January 23, 2007, Mr. Justice Verville of the Court of Queen's Bench gave his decision in an appeal by Mr. Kipp Kelley from Kelley's March 10, 2006 conviction under the Wildlife Act for trapping without a license.  Mr. Justice Verville overturned Mr. Kelley's conviction, leading Mr. Kelley's counsel and other Métis representatives to claim victory for Métis people generally.

However, the interveners in the case, Safari Club International Alberta Chapter (ABSCI) and Public Action for Wildlife Society (PAWS)say that this ignores the Court's key finding.  Mr. Justice Verville agreed with the trial judge, and with the submissions of ABSCI and PAWS, that the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement (IMHA) is not a legal agreement.  In spite of this finding, Mr. Justice Verville elected to overturn Mr. Kelley's conviction because he found that the ordinary person would interpret the IMHA as permitting a person in Mr. Kelley’s circumstances to trap without a license and as binding the Government not to prosecute. He concluded that it would not be fair for Mr. Kelley personally to bear the burden of the IMHA being declared unenforceable.

“This is a victory for ABSCI and PAWS and the responsible hunting and fishing community, because Justice Verville upheld the finding of the trial judge, and the submissions of ABSCI and PAWS, that the IMHA is not legally enforceable,” states Archie Nesbitt, President of Safari Club International – Alberta Chapter, “Contrary to some of the media claims made by members of the Métis community, Justice Verville's ruling does not stand for the proposition that all Métis people can rely on the IMHA as a legal defence to charges brought under the Wildlife Act. Quite the opposite, the IMHA is of no legal effect.”

ABSCI and PAWS were the only parties before the Court arguing to uphold the trial finding that the IMHA was unenforceable.  They argued that the Government was not entitled to enter an agreement exempting certain people, in this case Métispeople, from the general law of the land, unless it was constitutionally obliged to do so.  It was not so obliged in this case.

According to Nesbitt, Alberta sportsmen now know that the IMHA cannot stand as is. It will have to be revisited by political representatives. ABSCI and PAWS now encourage all sportsmen in Alberta to communicate with their MLAs and the Minister of Sustainable Resources, the Honourable Ted Morton, to terminate the IMHA. Not only is it putting our wildlife resources at risk but it is giving the Métis people a false sense of security about their status under the Wildlife Act.

“Based on this decision and the publicity surrounding it, Métis people should understand that the IMHA is not legally enforceable and will not be available to them as a defense,” states Archie Nesbitt. “They would not be in the same innocent position as Mr. Kelley – falsely thinking that the IMHA will protect otherwise illegal hunting or fishing.”

ABSCI and PAWS will continue to fight for the proper management of Alberta’s wildlife resources. It has taken decades of responsible management to develop a world class wildlife resource and if agreements such as the IMHA are left in force, these resources will soon be gone.

The Public Action for Wildlife Society is a federally registered not-for-profit organization based in Calgary, Alberta. Key industry players from wildlife, fishing and hunting organizations have joined forces to form the Public Action for Wildlife Society (PAWS). PAWS spearheads the necessary political action that is required to ensure both the government and public are supporting the right measures to properly manage Alberta's wildlife resources.

The Alberta chapter of Safari Club International is focused on wildlife education and conservation, humanitarian efforts & advocacy of the hunter and hunting. Safari Club International is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1971, Safari Club has grown to a membership of more than 37,000 with 200 chapters in 37 countries, working to realize our mission throughout the globe.

Archie Nesbitt
President, ABSCI