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Hunter gets 13 months for killing pal

Ordered to tell story as warning

For years, Ramie Fontaine has shouldered guilt and remorse for killing a close friend during a nighttime hunting incident.

A judge ordered him Wednesday to tell his tragic story to community members to warn them of the perils of nighttime hunting.

Fontaine, 30, had pleaded guilty to weapons offences for the shooting death of Jason (Jay) Guimond, 35, near Sagkeeng First Nation on Jan. 7, 2010.

He mistook Guimond for a moose and fatally shot him while hunting around midnight with a spotlight.

He saw the LED lights on Guimond's cap in the dark, thought they were the eyes of a moose reflecting back from the spotlight and fired.

The practice of spotlighting or night-lighting is forbidden in Manitoba.

Justice Colleen Suche ordered Fontaine to serve 13 months in jail and placed him on probation for three years to follow.

Suche crafted a condition requiring Fontaine to take part in a community-service program to talk about the dangers of spotlight hunting and other unsafe hunting practices after he leaves jail. "I think this would be both helpful and meaningful, and allow Mr. Fontaine to give back to the community he has so seriously harmed," Suche said.

Prosecutors requested a four-year sentence, saying the message needed to be sent to Fontaine and his community that hunting at night with a light won't be condoned.

The practice remains common in Sagkeeng and neighbouring communities despite its dangers, the Crown argued at a hearing May 30.

Suche disagreed.

"I consider that Mr. Fontaine has truly come to understand the dangerous nature of what he was doing, and he is not likely to repeat it or suggest anyone else engage in the behaviour," she said.

She likewise disagreed with Fontaine's lawyers that Guimond's death was, in itself, a message strong enough to deter others from illegal hunting and that she shouldn't go beyond the mandatory minimum sentence of one year.

"While that may be the case for many, if not most members of the community, general deterrence is intended for those few people who might choose to engage in the behaviour despite what happened here," Suche said. "Knowing that there is a personal consequence to them, should they make this choice, is necessary."

Suche ordered Fontaine to take a hunting-safety course.

The case drew strong reaction from the Manitoba Wildlife Federation. The organization called on the provincial government to stamp out hunting at night.

First Nations hunters are only prohibited from firing their guns while night hunting when it is dangerous to do so, the federation said in a statement. And whether there's danger is up to hunters to decide, the group said.

As well, rights-based hunters are currently exempt from mandatory safety training, the federation said.

"This practice puts aboriginal hunters and others at risk, and changes are needed now," president Brian Strauman said in a statement.

"There are too many uncontrollable variables at night," managing director Robert Olson said. "There may be buildings behind your target you can't see, livestock, or worse, other rights-based hunters. Night hunting just doesn't make sense and puts citizens at extreme risk."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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