Charges dismissed against Idle No More founders

Photo courtesy of Sylvia McAdam GoFundMe page.

Idle No More founder Sylvia McAdam says she’s relieved and grateful after a provincial court judge dismissed charges against her and her brother Kurtis McAdam in Prince Albert on Wednesday.

Judge Gerald Morin ruled that the Crown did not establish that the court had the jurisdiction to hear the case against the McAdams, which stems from an incident in 2017 when they were charged after failing to remove items from a recreation site in Zig Zag Bay Campground near Delaronde Lake.

Morin ruled the Crown did not provide the direct evidence required pursue the case, saying the court was limited in areas where it could make inferences.

Afterwards, Sylvia said she was grateful for all the support the family received, and thankful they’re one step closer to getting back their traditional home.

“My family has always lived there,” she during an interview outside the provincial court building in Prince Albert. “For the province to create a park there in violation of Treaty 6, it’s problematic.”

The Crown called only one witness during the case, Conservation Officer Frazer Parsons, who testified that they were required to confiscate items such as campers and building materials sitting on the site because it constituted an “incompatible use” of the space.

That phrase proved to be a sticking point during deliberations, as did arguments over whether the creation of provincial parks and the Park Act were compatible with treaties signed by the Crown and First Nations people.

Larry Kowalchuk, the family’s lawyer, said the case was about the principle of the rule of law, and hoped that the family and provincial government would be able to meet and discuss the issue to avoid further problems.

“When you accuse somebody, especially when you’re the government … the onus is very high to prove (the case) establishes jurisdiction,” he said.

Crown council Macrina Badger declined to offer comments following the decision, other than to say she’s not yet sure if they will appeal. The Crown has 60 days to appeal before items confiscated from the site must be returned to the McAdam siblings.

Conservation officers originally issued a notice to the family requiring them to remove items from the recreation site on March 13, 2017. The notice required the family to move everything by April 15 of that year. Conservation officers began removing items from the site on May 4, 2017 after the family failed to comply with the notice.

The family has held meetings with various provincial government organizations about building a permanent cabin in the area. Those discussions stretch back to 2012. McAdam says her family had a cabin on that land previously, but it burned down in 1994.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca