By Cornelia Naylor
Local First Nations leaders want prosecutors to put an end to a case against two local aboriginal men charged in connection with a highprofile eagle poaching case more than seven years ago.
Gary Abbott, a well-known Chilliwack powwow dancer, and Ralph Leon of Chehalis were among 11 men charged in April 2006 with a total of 105 offences related to the unlawful possession of dead wildlife, trafficking in dead wildlife and other related offences.
The charges came after a 15-month Conservation Officer Service investigation that began with the discovery of 50 dead eagles in North Vancouver.
Abbott and Leon were found guilty on June 9 of unlawful possession of dead wildlife and of illegally trafficking in wildlife parts. On Monday, however, B.C. Provincial Court judge Thomas Crabtree declared a mistrial in the case, and the Crown now has until Dec. 10 to decide what it will do next.
"I sincerely hope that the prosecution, after doing some self-reflection, decide enough's enough," Sto: lo Tribal Council vice-president Tyrone McNeil told the Times.
Crabtree's mistrial decision was based on the late disclosure of evidence that cast doubt on the permitting process in place for natives owning eagle feathers and other eagle parts at the time of the charges.
At trial, the Crown had successfully argued that First Nations knew about the paperwork required for owning eagle feathers and other eagle parts.
After Abbott and Leon's trial, however, two Conservation Officer Service reports came to light that show a conservation officer telling residents on Chilliwack-area reserves in 2004 and 2005 that there was "no violation" and "no conservation concern" for a native shooting eagles on the reserve and that a native person could kill an eagle and use it for ceremonial purposes.
"The conservation officers had evidence relevant to one of the significant issues and ultimate findings at trial," Crabtree said in his mistrial decision Monday. More....