The Multi-Year Undercover Sting to Catch a Man Selling Less Than $100 of Fish

It’s the rural Canadian version of ‘Point Break'

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Jan 23 2019, 5:27pm

Photo via Flickr and Point Break.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited due to a publication ban that doesn’t allow Canadians to see the “operational” techniques used by an undercover conservation officer during a multi-year investigation into an Indigenous man selling $90 worth of fish illegally. The court decision in the case was mistakenly published to the Canadian Legal Information Institute website but has since been taken down.

Authorities in Saskatchewan conducted a sting operation on an Indigenous man who sold a tiny amount of fish to an undercover officer because apparently they have nothing better to do.

The amount of fish their multi-year undercover operation caught being sold? Ninety-one bucks.

Think about that amount of money, it’s not very much in regards to “illegal operations”—that's less than one good karaoke night, which is how we judge money at VICE Canada. It’s not like this was a small, short-lived project either by conservation officers, no, this went on for years and it seemed like it took up some serious resources. In all honesty, the whole thing feels like a Kids in the Hall sketch.

The target of the sting was an Indigenous man named Donald Iron who lived in Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan. According to the court documents first reported on by the CBC, the conservation officers began investigating Iron after they received numerous complaints, dating back to 1997, that he was selling Canoe Lake fish illegally.

The sting began in 2016 with a conservation officer going undercover.

The sting operation finally concluded in October of 2017. The sting found that “over a period of 16 months, Mr. Iron sold 10 bags of fish to the undercover officer for a grand total of $90.”

Iron’s defence attorney argued Iron was entrapped because the “undercover cover officer enticed his illiterate, poor, and, allegedly, alcoholic client into committing these offences by ‘waving money in his face.’” They also argued that the amount of fish that Iron pulled from Canoe Lake—which Iron wasn’t allowed to sell because he didn’t hold a commercial fishing license—was so small it didn’t matter.

The judge threw out both these arguments because of course they did, writing that it wasn’t entrapment because Iron broached the subject of being paid for his fish first and that “illegally selling even a few fish, here and there, is not a blameless, or a victimless, offence.”

Iron will be sentenced on February 14. Well done, guys, seems like this was a good use of everyone’s time and money.

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