VANCOUVER, B.C. – The executive director of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says she’s going to be petitioning Premier John Horgan to make changes to the rules governing Conservation Officers in B.C. after the B.C. Court of Appeal has dismissed the Association’s lawsuit against a conservation officer who chose to destroy a bear cub two years ago.
In May 2016, South Peace resident Tiana Jackson discovered a black bear cub lying on a gravel road near her home, roughly 50 kilometres from Dawson Creek. Jackson reportedly called the Conservation Officer Service after the mother bear didn’t return and brought the cub home, giving it food and water while keeping it in a dog kennel.
While en route to Jackson’s home, conservation officer Micah Kneller reportedly called her for an update and explained to her after learning that the cub had been placed in a kennel that it would have to be put down. Despite arranging for the bear to be accepted at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers, Jackson said that Kneller officer refused, and euthanized the bear via lethal injection.
Last November, Jackson and the Association – which also goes by the name ‘The Fur-Bearers’ – filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against Kneller, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, and the Minister of Environment. In his ruling the following month, Supreme Court Justice G.C. Weatherill stated that “In my view, 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 [Section 79 of the Wildlife Act].”
In January, The Fur-Bearers announced that they would be appealing the verdict to the B.C. Court of Appeal, but the CBC News is reporting that the higher court has also dismissed the Fur-Bearers’ case.
Reading the appeal court’s decision, Justice Harvey Groberman said that it would be inappropriate to consider the proceedings as a case about Kneller’s actions and that the power to kill animals as outlined by the Wildlife Act is not limited to section 79, as the Fur-Bearers’ Arden Beddoes lawyer argued.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment released the following statement after this morning’s verdict:
“Not a single conservation officer relishes the thought of having to put down an animal – euthanization is a last resort. Conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy, as well as their experience and expertise, to make decisions in the field every day. The previous court decision affirms our understanding of the authorities granted to Conservation Officers under the Wildlife Act. As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The Fur-Bearers’ executive director Lesley Fox said that she’s frustrated by the Court’s verdict and that the Association is setting up a call to action and appealing to Premier John Horgan to have conservation officers’ duties to be exactly defined.
“We’re asking for the Province to define the duties of a conservation officer and to provide transparency in doing so,” said Fox. “We’re also asking for independent oversight because right now the Conservation Officer Service is essentially a private army. They review their own complaint process; the duties aren’t defined in the legislation. There’s a need for conservation officers to be very clear within their duties of when they can and when they can’t kill an animal. Right now that’s not clear at all.”
With files from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-court-of-appeal-dismisses-fur-bearers-case-1.4697053