ATHABASCA — A man who was facing $16,000 in fines was granted a reprieve by a judge who showed a little mercy, cutting the fine in half.
In Athabasca Provincial Court Sept. 20, Judge Rosanna Saccomani accepted guilty pleas from Ricky Cardinal on four counts of selling fish without the proper licence and agreed to pay the $16,000 in fines following a joint submission on sentencing from his lawyer and Crown prosecutor Dave Hall.
Hall informed Judge Saccomani that after numerous complaints of Cardinal selling fish without the correct licence, Alberta Fish and Wildlife interacted with him undercover to obtain proof Cardinal was selling fish domestically. Hall noted Cardinal was allowed to fish according to his treaty rights, but had not obtained a Domestic Fishing Licence.
According to the Domestic Fishing Licence Conditions for 2021-2022 document on the Government of Alberta website regarding Métis harvesting rights, “A Domestic Fishing Licence (DFL) authorizes the licensee to harvest fish for food. Fish harvested under a DFL by any means cannot be sold, bought, traded, bartered or gifted to people ineligible for a DFL.”
Four times in 2019 – Sept. 8, Sept. 16, Oct. 15, and Oct. 19 – undercover Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers approached Cardinal to buy fish Hall told the judge and requested a $4,000 fine for each occurrence – $16,000 total – noting due the nature of gill net fishing the type of fish sold are endangered at the lake they were caught in.
Hall said there were two reasons the fine was so high. First, Cardinal was convicted for a similar offence in 2009 and was given a $6,000 fine and second, the amount was based on fines issued on similar offences across Alberta.
Judge Saccomani asked Cardinal about his financial situation and he informed her he makes about $1,500 a month, but if can vary as low as $600, and his wife is a teacher. She then questioned if the $16,000 total fine was too onerous to which Hall replied Cardinal had already agreed to the amount, adding that as long as payments were being made, he could ask for an extension.
Judge Saccomani asked Cardinal if he would be able to pay the fine over two years to which he replied he would try and his wife would help him, at which point she informed Hall she was going to lower the requested amount by half, saying $8,000 should be enough to “reinforce a significant message.”
Hall said normally there would also be a request to ban commercial and recreational fishing along with the fine, but the Crown was looking at strict guidelines for Cardinal to follow in lieu of removing the rights entirely.
In addition, several conditions were also handed down as part of sentencing. For a period of 10 years Cardinal must inform the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Sportsman branch of any change of address; notify in advance of any intention to set up a net or help someone set up a net and provide the name of the person. Cardinal and the person, if applicable, must report with 24 hours of pulling a net to provide the number and species of fish harvested.
Cardinal will also have to report within 24 hours if he comes into possession of any fish and provide the name of the person who killed the fish and the name of the person who provided the fish including the number and species of fish. He must also report within 24 hours any fish he gave to someone else including their address and the species and number of fish given away.
“This is to (prove) if he is sustenance fishing that he’s giving it to people who can legally receive it,” said Hall.
Judge Saccomani granted the conditions giving Cardinal until Sept. 24 to contact Fish and Wildlife to provide them with his address. Cardinal has one year to pay the fine or face 75 days in jail. If he is making payments, he can ask for an extension she added.