After a protracted prosecution spanning more than five years, the Crown has stayed all charges against a First Nations couple caught selling deer meat in 2013.
Jay Coutts, 52, and Farah Palmer, 46, were initially convicted in 2016 following a trial in Kamloops provincial court. Both were found guilty of trafficking in wildlife — once in Cache Creek and once in Vancouver — while Coutts was convicted of an additional count of hunting during prohibited hours.
The couple was caught selling deer meat to an undercover conservation officer. During trial, prosecutors described Coutts and Palmer’s operation as “an ongoing business.”
The couple never denied selling deer meat.
In an interview with KTW in 2014, Coutts said he makes his living selling wildlife meat — something he maintained he had the right to do.
"I'm being persecuted for being Indian — for doing my job," he said at the time. "How is it possible that I can sell the hide, but I can't sell the meat?"
Coutts said Aboriginals are allowed to hunt "for food and sustenance" in Canada and argued that should mean he is allowed to sell deer meat.
"My rights existed before 1800 and they still exist today," he said. "To my society, it's integral."
In 2014, Coutts and Fara Palmer filed a three-page notice of constitutional question, which cited a number of prominent Canadian cases dealing with native legal issues, including the Tsilhqot'in decision.
Coutts and Palmer, who were self-represented through much of their legal ordeal, argued post-trial that First Nations people have the right to carry on as their ancestors did prior to European contact.
During an earlier hearing, Palmer argued those rights allow First Nations people to “harvest, barter and trade in wildlife,” and said laws restricting such guarantees are “of no force and effect.”
Courts and Palmer had previously hired a lawyer in an unsuccessful attempt to have their charges dismissed due to delay.
Charges against Coutts and Palmer were stayed last week when the Crown concluded there was not a likelihood of conviction following the post-trial applications and arguments by Coutts and Palmer.