B.C. court dismisses judicial review of conservation service in Dawson Creek bear cub killing

A bear cub found alone on the side of the highway near Dawson Creek after a resident took it home to her dog pen was killed by the Conservation Officer Service in 2016.

The case stemmed from an officer's decision to kill a bear cub in May 2016

A black bear cub is pictured in the Dawson Creek, B.C., area on May 6, 2016, before it was destroyed by a conservation officer. (The Fur Bearers/Tiana Jackson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a request for a judicial review of an incident where a bear cub was killed by a conservation officer in Dawson Creek in 2016.

Lawyers with The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals argued the Wildlife Actprohibits officers from killing wildlife that do not pose a threat to people, property or wildlife.

But in his ruling, Justice G.C. Weatherill disagreed, siding with the Chief Conservation Officer's review of the incident.

Justice Weatherill said in some circumstances, conservation officers have the discretion and the authority to kill wildlife — like bear cubs — which may not pose a threat.

"I find it inconceivable that the Legislature intended to restrict the wildlife management powers of officers to kill wildlife to those that are at large and are likely to harm," Justice Weatherill said in his ruling.

Rehab centre ready to take bear

The case stemmed from an incident which took place in May 6, 2016.

Tiana Jackson said she found the apparently orphaned bear near her home in Dawson Creek, according to court documents. Jackson said she decided to take the cub home to be kept safe in a dog pen.

She called the RCMP which then contacted the conservation officer, Micah Kneller, the court documents say.

Kneller came to Jackson's home to take possession of the bear.

According to documents filed by the province, Kneller deemed the cub to not be a suitable candidate for rehabilitation and proceeded to kill the bear.

Jackson and the advocacy group said he did this despite the fact a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Smithers had already agreed to take the cub, which they argue was a more appropriate course of action.

Officers exempt under Act

In their application, Jackson and the Fur-Bearers said there needs to be limits on the powers of officers to kill animals which are not a threat, as it is the province's duty to protect wildlife in the public interest.

But the province cited a section of the Wildlife Act that says an "officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties" is exempt from offences like destroying wildlife.

It argued the law gives officers the authority to destroy animals if they are performing duties in the course of their job and their actions follow government policy. 

The act "implicitly anticipates that conservation officers may need to euthanize wounded wildlife or wildlife that cannot otherwise survive in the wild," the province said in court documents.

The decision was handed down on Dec.13, 2017. The advocacy group said it was disappointed with the decision, and reviewing its "next steps," with its legal counsel, according to its website.

Corrections

  • This story has been updated to clarify points of the B.C. Supreme Court's decision. A previous version of this story also provided incorrect information about the timeline preceeding the bear cub's euthanization.
    Dec 17, 2017 2:01 PM PT