Mi’kmaw fisherman to set date for trial on constitutional challenge in October

Cory Francis outside of the Justice Centre in Bridgewater, N.S./Photo by Stephen Brake

A Mi’kmaw fisherman who is fighting fishery charges against him on constitutional grounds will return to court in October to set a trial date.

Cory Francis, 53, appeared before Judge Paul Scovil in provincial court in Bridgewater, N.S. on Monday to provide an update on his constitutional challenge notice as part of his defence.

Francis, who is defending himself in court, jointly submitted an agreed statement of facts with the crown attorney in his case to begin the process for his constitutional challenge.

During his brief court appearance on Monday, Francis informed Judge Scovil that after seeking legal advice, he may need more time to amend or add to his constitutional notice in the near future.

“While my (legal) help has briefly reviewed what has been filed in very preliminary fields, there may be a way to better focus the issues,” Francis told the court.

Francis’s next scheduled hearing in Bridgewater Provincial Court is on Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. via conference call.

“Being in court is not the best way” – Cory Francis

Bridgewater Justice Centre/Photo by Stephen Brake

Francis, a member of the Acadia First Nation near Yarmouth, N.S. was charged with two counts of violating a fishery management order in April and May of 2020 for fishing for American eels under ten centimetres in size.

Francis had been fishing for eels in the East River and Gold River near Chester, N.S. on April 30 and May 5, 2020 when DFO officers arrived and seized his catch and fishing gear. He and several other Mi’kmaw fishermen were officially charged in April 2021.

If found guilty, Francis could face a maximum fine of $500,000 and/or two years in prison for each charge.

In his initial court filing regarding his constitutional challenge, Francis argues that his fishing activities were lawful because he was exercising his rights to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, and for a moderate livelihood fishery.

Francis states that his aboriginal and treaty rights to fish are protected under section 35 of the Canadian constitution.

Following court, Francis said there is a better way for the federal government to deal Mi’kmaw peoples’s aboriginal and treaty rights to fish.

“I guess I can say that being in court is not the best way and I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.