Patricia Kelly's latest court appearance was her latest in a long, drawn out fight over fish.
The Sto: lo woman was first charged in 2004 with "purchasing, selling and possession of fish against the fisheries act." She pleaded not guilty but after a four-year fight she was convicted on July 3, 2008.
She then made an aboriginal rights defence. A year after that, Kelly's case got the attention of local First Nations leaders because of her mug shot's inclusion in a Crime Stoppers advertisement in the Times.
"How does a woman from our community become a criminal for practising her right to fish," Grand Chief Doug Kelly (no relation to Patricia) said in July 2009. At that time, Kelly was chair of the First Nations Fisheries Council and was on the political executive of the First Nations Summit.
"We have a constitutionally protected right to fish and so how does a conflict between an aboriginal person and DFO, how does that become a criminal matter?"
Sto: lo Nation president Chief Joe Hall agreed.
"There's got to be a more fair way of dealing with these issues rather than turning well-meaning and honest people into what's being perceived as hardened criminals," Hall said in 2009.
Hall was in court Thursday to support Kelly. Hall told the Times that because Kelly is fighting a rights issue to do with the conflict between the federal fisheries act and Section 35 of the Constitution Act, the provincial court is not the proper venue.
"She is doing very important work for aboriginal rights," he said.
When asked if he was hopeful for the future or frustrated with the battle, Hall said both.
"I'm proud but this court is not going to solve the problems," he said.
The first day of Kelly's two-day court appearance was lost due to her arrest Wednesday when she attempted to drum and sing in the courthouse.
Kelly is defending herself and spent much of Thursday arguing that University of Lethbridge globalization studies professor Anthony Hall was an expert on Section 35 of the Constitution, which protects aboriginal and treaty rights.
"Canada has a really great opportunity to hear what Professor Hall has to say," Kelly told the court. She argued that because Hall is an expert on Section 35 of the Constitution, he qualified as a witness in her case.
"The criminalization of this woman in this case speaks to a process that is bringing infamy on Canada," Hall told the court.
Hall is the author of a number of books including The American Empire and The Fourth World. He is also a conspiracy theorist who has written and spoken skeptically about the official story of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
Crown counsel Finn Jensen argued that Hall was an advocate for Kelly's case rather than an objective expert.
"Is it necessary to hear from [Hall] on the interpretation of Section 35? This testimony isn't necessary or relevant," Jensen said.
"Professor Hall is going to be of no assistance to the court."
For his part, Hall said he was not an advocate but is "a messenger trying to articulate that reality as I see it."
Crabtree said he would announced his decision on whether or not Hall could be a witness on Aug. 29.
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