BC Supreme Court ruling harms Wildlife & grants Conservation Officers more powers
Very important & damming decision by BC Supreme Court on wildlife management in BC.
Arguments were heard on Nov. 22-23/2017 in Vancouver & decision made on Dec. 13/2017 in case of:
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals & Tiana Jackson v. The Minister of Environment (Conservation Officer Service) & Micah Kneller.
Mr. Justice G.C. Weatherill heard the case & made his decision.
The facts of the case are that on May 6, 2016, Tiana Jackson near Dawson Creek, BC found an orphaned black bear cub about the size of a domestic cat on a road. The Conservation Officer (or more appropriately named ‘the anti-conservation officer’) Micah Kneller attended the scene, seized the little cub & killed it. Despite the knowledge that The Northern Lights Wildlife Centre in Smithers, BC had agreed to accept this cub into its rehabilitation centre. This organization has a long history of successfully rehabilitating black bears & a very good reputation for doing conservation work.
CO Kneller determined that this cub needed to be killed because he had reviewed his government policy & felt that he had sufficient cause to kill the bear. This CO’s decision was reviewed by Deputy Chief Conservation Officer Aaron Canuel & his decision to kill the bear cub was supported by Canuel. Canuel’s decision was reviewed by Chief Conservation Officer Douglas Forsdick (appropriate last four letters of his surname) & the decision by Kneller & Canuel was upheld.
What kind of appropriate review is conducted by upper level bureaucrats from the same organization? The actions of the police in BC are finally reviewed by a civilian oversight commission not the police themselves & this policy should apply to the actions of any peace officer employed by the Province of BC (conservation officer, probation officer, police officer, etc.). This farcical review by Canuel & Forsdick is the equivalent of the 2 Chief Foxes reviewing the actions of lower ranking foxes in the management of the chicken coup. There is an inherent bias & major conflict of interest where the foxes review the actions of other foxes.
My question is how can a human being (in this case anti-conservation officer Kneller) kill a defenceless, sentient being such as this young black bear cub with a clear conscience? It posed no threat to the public & a well respected wildlife rehabilitation centre had agreed to take this animal & Kneller knew that before killing this animal.
Well he relies on Section 86 of the Wildlife Act (BC) which exempts conservation officers from the authority of this Act when performing their duties. In other words they can kill this animal legally & know that their superiors will support their decision.
The lawyers for the Petitioners raise a very good argument that they submitted to the Court, “we submit that, in keeping with the central scheme and purpose of the Wildlife Act, the Province’s ownership of wildlife, as is the case with public lands, is “in trust” for the people of the Province, and that the Wildlife Act should not be construed in such a manner that gives unlimited authorization to conservation officers to interfere with that public interest, especially when that authorization is expressly limited by the words used in the s. 79(1).”
The Respondents lawyers argued that conservation officers have broad powers to manage wildlife in furtherance of the goals of the Wildlife Act and that ss. 79 and 97.7(2) and the Legislature grants them this vast authority.
Mr. Justice Weatherill ruled that he agreed with the Province that s. 86 of the Wildlife Act, which exempts officers from its offence provisions, was enacted to facilitate their ability to perform their duties consistent with the purpose of the Wildlife Act, namely to manage wildlife and their habitat. To be clear, in order to be afforded the exemption in s. 86, officers must exercise their duties in accordance with the purposes of the Wildlife Act and the legitimate policy guidelines established by government.
In my view, (Justice Weatherill), the management of wildlife resources by conservation officers, as contemplated by the Wildlife Act, includes the authority to kill wildlife in circumstances broader than those set out in s. 79. However, that authority is not an unlimited or unfettered discretion. Officers will not be exempted from the offence provisions of the Wildlife Act unless they are engaged in the performance of their duties as officers and their actions are exercised in accordance with the legitimate policy direction of the government.
While Justice Weatherill in words has placed certain restrictions on the actions of conservation officers, in reality he has broaden their actions because it will be unlimited authority & unfettered permission to kill wildlife because the current legitimate policy of the Province of BC under the Ministry of Environment is not to relocate predators (bears, cougars, & wolves). This policy directs their government killers (conservation officers) to kill these animals. Therefore, the CO’s are acting within their authority as established by the government & supported by Mr. Justice Weatherill’s decision.
It will be extremely difficult to bring any future cases to court for judicial review of the actions of officials under the Ministry of Environment with this BC Supreme Court decision & the current policies of the Province of BC toward wildlife.
The BC Supreme Court decision can be read in its entirety at: