Myran et al. v. R.

Supreme Court of Canada – [1976] 2 S.C.R. 137


Manitoba Aboriginal rights
Summary

The Court balances the right of Aboriginal people to hunt for food, and the right of other Canadians to security. It concludes that there is no contradiction between the two, and that one does not encroach the other. Aboriginal people must exercise their right in a way that preserves everyone’s security.

Issue

Can the Crown infringe on a treaty right to hunt for food for safety reasons?

Decision

The right to hunt for food could be limited to ensure other people’s security. There is no contradiction between the two (unanimous decision).

Parties

Between: Joseph Myran, James Meeches, Dorene Meeches and Ruthie Myran

And: Manitoba Crown

Facts

The Myran and Meeches are Treaty 1 Indians residing on the Long Plain Indian Reserve (Manitoba) and members of the Long Plain First Nation.

In 1971, they were caught hunting with night lights in North Cypress (Manitoba) on lands belonging to a local farmer, within range of houses, highways, railways, fields, a town and a breeding station.

They were charged with hunting without consideration for the security of others in violation of the Wildlife Act (count 1). They were also charged with a second offence of hunting at night with the use of lighting or reflecting equipment for the purpose of hunting, taking, killing, trapping or capturing an animal or attracting or confusing an animal for the purpose of hunting, taking, and killing, trapping or capturing it in violation of the Wildlife Act (count 2).

Arguments

Myran et al.: The right to hunt for food is “unfettered and unqualified,” and that limits or constraints such as those set out in the Wildlife Act cannot be incurred by Aboriginal people (their arguments were based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Prince and Myron v. The Queen).

The Crown: Such rights bestowed upon Aboriginal people cannot be unqualified and are still subject to being exercised in a reasonable manner.

Decision of the lower courts

Manitoba Magistrate’s Court (1972): As treaty Indians, Myran and al. had the right to hunt for food on unoccupied Crown lands. Hence, they were not subject to sect. 19 of the Wildlife Act. As for count 1, it was found that section 13 of the Natural Resources Act does not make them immune from sections of the Wildlife Act relating to the security of other persons. They were therefore convicted on the first count.

Manitoba County Court (1972): The convictions of the accused are confirmed.

Manitoba Court of Appeal (1973): The obligation to have regard for the safety of others, which is to say that they have to exercise their rights in a reasonable manner, does not infringe on their Aboriginal right to hunt. Therefore, sect. 10 of the Wildlife Act is applicable to the Indians and the convictions were maintained.

Reasons for Judgement

Jury

Laskin, Martland, Judson, Ritchie, Spence, Pigeon, Dickson, Beet, de Grandpré

Reason

The present case can be distinguished from Prince and Myron.

In this case, the treaty protected methods of hunting could not be restricted by provincial game laws, whereas here the protection of human life is at stake.

Aboriginal right to hunt for food should not be construed as taking precedence over the lives of persons. There is no contradiction between hunting for food and respect other people’s security.

Impact

Before 1970, judges would limit aboriginal rights in the face of provincial and federal legislation, depending on the context. Afterwards, they started considering the intent of the act infringing on aboriginal rights. If its goal is valid, it was possible to infringe (Lajoie, 2004).

Myran was the first case to establish that an aboriginal right to hunt is not incompatible with safety. In 2006, Morris confirmed that aboriginal rights do not include the right to hunt in a way that would compromise the public’s safety.

If the Myran case had been rendered a few years later, after the constitutional recognition of aboriginal rights in 1982, judges would have had to change their reasoning (Walsh, 2008).

Related Cases

Prince and Myron v. The Queen, [1975] S.C.R. 81

Moosehunter v. The Queen, [1981] 1 S.C.R. 282

 R. v. Morris, [2006] 2 S.C.R. 915


Sources

LAJOIE, Andrée et GELINEAU-ASSERAY, Éric. 2004. Les conceptions canadiennes des droits ancestraux. In Article de la revue juridique Thémis – Droit Autochtones.[ 38 R.J.T. 489] Disponible en ligne : http://www.editionsthemis.com/uploaded/revue/article/rjtvol38num2/gelineau_lajoie.pdf  .Consulté le 5 août 2013.

WALSH, Francis. 2008. L’utilisation du domaine de la preuve par la Cour suprême du Canada dans la détermination des droits économiques des Autochtones conformément à ses propres valeurs. In Bibliothèque de droit-Mémoire présenté à la Faculté des études supérieures. En ligne : https://papyrus.bib.umontreal.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1866/3527/12062028.pdf?sequence=2. Consulté le 5 août 2013.

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