A provincial court judge has ordered that costs be paid to four members of a First Nation band near Sault Ste. Marie in a dispute over logging and treaty rights, after the Crown decided to withdraw charges on the eve of the trial, eight years after charges had been laid.
“I find that this delay by the Crown in reaching a decision to withdraw the charges in May of 2016 was ‘a marked and unacceptable departure from the reasonable standards expected of the prosecution,’” wrote Justice R. Kwolek of the Ontario Court of Justice in a 28-page judgment released on February 13.
In R. v. Sayers, three members of the Batchewana First Nation were charged with logging on Crown land without the authority of a forest resource licence, contrary to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, while the chief of the band, Dean Sayers, was charged with being a party to the logging. The defendants in the case maintained that the logging was within their established treaty rights, under the terms of the Robinson Treaty of 1950.