COVID-19 and the legal system. Your questions answered.

Harvesting rights

Aboriginal harvesting rights

Mack was arrested while hunting on his ancestral territory and charged with a harvesting offence. As a status Indian, Mack has Aboriginal harvesting rights.

What are Aboriginal harvesting rights?

What are Aboriginal harvesting rights?

Aboriginal rights protect traditional activities that were practised by Aboriginal ancestors before European contact.

Traditional harvesting activities include:

  • fishing
  • hunting
  • trapping
  • gathering plants, fungi, or timber
  • trading, bartering, or selling your harvest

Who has harvesting rights?

Who has harvesting rights?

Harvesting rights apply to First Nations and Métis, and they are of great cultural, social, and economic importance.

Mack is a status Indian and Gitxsan. Harvesting rights on his community’s territory are protected.

Status Indians who are BC residents don’t need a licence or permit to hunt animals or migratory birds, trap, or freshwater fish.

If you’re harvesting, it must be :

  • for food, social, or ceremonial purposes; and
  • within areas you can prove your First Nation traditionally used.

You must also follow conservation, public health, and public safety regulations, and any laws your First Nation may have about harvesting.

BC regulations don’t recognize the right of non-status Indians to hunt, trap, or freshwater fish without a licence. You may still have an Aboriginal right, but you may be charged for using this right without a licence. To avoid being charged is to buy a hunting or fishing licence and follow all regulations.

Métis rights also apply to the traditional practices that were important to Métis culture. Since Métis communities developed after European contact, Métis rights are based on traditional practices that developed before Europeans took control over the area.

Some Aboriginal people also have treaty rights.

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

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

If you’re charged with a harvesting offence, get legal help. Mack contacted Legal Aid BC and got legal help for his Aboriginal harvesting offence.

Call Legal Aid BC to find out if you qualify for services.

  • 604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
  • 1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)

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

Your Aboriginal community

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

Other legal help

You might be able to discuss your matter with duty counsel who provide free legal advice.

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

Other options

Restorative justice

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

Restorative justice:

  • is based on Aboriginal healing traditions
  • 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.

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/Indigenous Court

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

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

Get help

Legal Aid Criminal Duty Counsel — Lawyers paid by Legal Aid BC who can help people with low incomes with their criminal law issues, give free legal advice, but can’t take on your whole case or represent you at trial

Native Courtworkers — Culturally sensitive legal help for Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system

Hunting & Trapping Regulations Synopsis — A summary of BC hunting and trapping regulations made under the Wildlife Act, prepared for hunters and trappers

See more

See more

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

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

Department of Justice Indigenous Justice Program — Alternatives to mainstream justice processes

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line — Free, experienced, and culturally competent help — Call 1-855-242-3310 (24 hours every day)

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

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

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

Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help

First Nations Court duty counsel — Free legal advice about having your matter transferred to First Nations/Indigenous Court and the charges against you — Call 604-601-6074 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-601-6066 (elsewhere in BC)

Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals

Lawyer Referral Service — Helps you find a lawyer to take your case — Call 604-687-3221 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-800-663-1919 (elsewhere in BC)

UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — Call 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (elsewhere in BC)

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

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

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