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CONSERVATION - Conservation authorities - Wildlife management

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:12 AM  

Petition by the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (Association) and Jackson for judicial review of a conservation officer’s decision to euthanize an orphaned bear cub. Jackson, a resident of Dawson Creek, found an orphaned black bear cub by her home, and it was picked up by the conservation officer, who euthanized it, despite knowing a wildlife centre had agreed to take it. The petitioner Association filed a complaint with the Conservation Officer Service, asserting the officer acted outside the scope of his authority to kill wild animals. The Deputy Chief Conservation Officer found that the officer’s authority under s. 79(1) of the Wildlife Act (Act) to kill wild animals at large and likely to cause harm did not apply, but the officer was exempted from restrictions against killing wildlife in the performance of his duties pursuant to s. 86 of the Act. The petitioner’s application for review of that decision was dismissed by the Chief Conservation Officer, who concluded that the conservation officer had sufficient cause to kill the black bear. The petitioner conceded that an order of certiorari or prohibition would have no use in the circumstances, therefore the hearing focused on the extent of the officer’s authority to kill wildlife under the Act and associated regulations. The petitioner argued the officer did not have the authority to kill the cub, and the immunity provision did not imbue the officer with any authority to kill other than that authorized by the Wildlife Act. The respondents argued conservation officers had broad authority and the provisions of the Act were not exhaustive.

HELD: Petition dismissed. The respondents did not take issue with the petitioner’s public interest standing to bring the application. Nothing in the Act specifically addressed the authority given to conservation officers to kill wildlife, but several sections conferred upon them discretion to take action. It was inconceivable that the Legislature intended to restrict wildlife management powers of officers to kill wildlife to those at large and likely to cause harm. Immunity under s. 86 of the Act was enacted to facilitate officers’ ability to perform their duties consistent with the purpose of the Wildlife Act. Management of wildlife resources by officers, as contemplated by the Wildlife Act, included the authority to kill wildlife in circumstances broader than those in s. 79. Conservation officers’ discretion was not unlimited or unfettered, as officers would not be exempted unless they were engaged in the performance of their duties as officers, and their actions were exercised in accordance with legitimate policy direction of the government. In the circumstance of this case, the conservation officer had authority under the Act to kill the bear cub.

Assn. for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals v. British Columbia (Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy), [2017] B.C.J. No. 2560, British Columbia Supreme Court, G.C. Weatherill J., December 13, 2017. Digest No. TLD-January152018004