Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC

Fishing, hunting, gathering
Aboriginal harvesting rights

Aboriginal rights give Aboriginal people the right to participate in traditional activities on their ancestral lands. Traditional activities are activities that are a key part of the distinctive cultures of Canada's Aboriginal peoples.

These activities include traditional harvesting activities, such as fishing, hunting, or gathering.

To get help with harvesting rights, see Who can help.

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Aboriginal rights

Aboriginal rights:

  • are protected under the Constitution Act;
  • include traditional harvesting activities, such as fishing, hunting and gathering plants;
  • in general, only apply within the ancestral territory of your Aboriginal community.

Who has Aboriginal rights in Canada?

Aboriginal rights apply to:

  • status Indians,
  • non-status Indians,
  • First Nations,
  • Inuit, and
  • Métis.

There are important changes coming to the law that will affect Métis rights. Check back here for information and updates. Talk to your lawyer about any questions you may have.

Find out more


Traditional activities

Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal harvesting rights, are based on traditional activities. In general, these are activities that were practised before contact with Europeans.

However, these activities can be carried out using modern methods. For example, if hunting used to be done with a bow and arrow and is now done with a rifle, the right to hunt doesn't change.

Aboriginal harvesting activities

Aboriginal harvesting rights may include the right to:

  • hunt,
  • fish,
  • trap,
  • gather plants, and
  • harvest wood.

Aboriginal rights may also include the right to:

  • trade,
  • barter, or
  • sell your harvest.

 


What if I've been charged with a harvesting offence?

If you've been charged with a harvesting offence, such as illegally hunting or fishing:

  • You have the right to get a lawyer.
  • Aboriginal harvesting offences are covered by Legal Aid.
  • Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.

If you don't qualify for legal aid, it's still a very good idea to get legal advice. Call Legal Aid to find out what your options are.

What if I'm not eligible for a legal aid lawyer?

Aboriginal harvesting rights cases can be complex. It's a good idea to get legal help.

Your Aboriginal community may be able to help

If you're not eligible for legal aid, your Aboriginal community may be willing to help pay for a lawyer. This will depend on the circumstances of your offence and the circumstances of your Aboriginal community.

Other legal help

You may be able to discuss your matter with duty counsel, who will provide you with free legal advice.

You may also be able to get legal information and support from:

What other options do I have?

Restorative justice

If you're willing to take responsibility for your actions, you may be able to participate in an Aboriginal restorative justice program.

Restorative justice:

  • is based on Aboriginal healing traditions, and
  • focuses on repairing the harm done by your actions.

You, your community, and those affected by your actions will work together to restore harmony and move forward.

In order to participate in a restorative justice program, the Crown counsel must agree to your participation in the program as a way to resolve the charges against you.

Talk to your lawyer about what's best for you.

First Nations Court

It’s very important to get legal advice before you plead guilty, in order to understand your Aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.

If you plead guilty to the charges, and Crown counsel agrees to it, you may be able to have your matter heard in First Nations Court.

Find out more



Who can help?

Find an advocate

BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211

BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation — See their A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help

PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help

Legal information

Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services

Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals

Legal help

Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help

Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinics — Call 250-412-7794

Department of Justice Community-based Justice Programs — Alternatives to mainstream justice processes

Duty counsel — Free legal advice

First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help — Victoria

First Nations Court duty counsel — Give free legal advice about having your matter transferred to First Nations Court and the charges against you — Call 604-601-6074 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-601-6066 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)

Lawyer Referral Service — Helps you find a lawyer to take your case

Native Courtworkers and Counselling Association of BC — Culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system — Call 604-985-5355 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-811-1190 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)

Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Free legal help — Bella Coola

UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)

Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Free legal help — Hazelton

Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic — Call 250-412-7794