By Tim Petruk
KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A First Nations couple facing poaching charges claim they are being "persecuted for being Indian."
Jay Coutts and Fara Palmer were in provincial court in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday to fight the charges, saying their aboriginal rights are being violated.
They have been charged with one count each of trafficking in wildlife, while Coutts faces an additional count of hunting during prohibited hours.
Coutts told the court that his aboriginal rights trump Canada's laws.
"All the words in these laws are white-man words," he said.
"These are laws built for non-native people. It is for white people, not native people."
The couple say they have constitutional rights based on a number of prominent cases including a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision granting the Tsilhqot'in Nation near Williams Lake, B.C., title to 1,700 square miles of land in the remote Nemiah Valley.
Coutts and Palmer were charged after an undercover operation by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service in April 2013.
They're accused of selling deer meat to undercover conservation officers in Cache Creek. It's alleged the officers went to the house Coutts and Palmer were living in and bought meat.
Outside court, Coutts said he was making a living selling the meat — something he believes he has the right to do.
"I'm being persecuted for being Indian — for doing my job," he said.
"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 that should mean he's allowed to sell deer meat.
"My rights existed before 1800 and they still exist today," he said.
"To my society, it's integral."
Coutts and Palmer are in the process of hiring a lawyer.
They are due back in court for arraignment on Jan. 26.