British Columbia

Bryce Casavant, who refused to kill bear cubs, removed from Conservation Service

Bryce Casavant, the B.C. conservation officer who was suspended for refusing to kill two black bear cubs, is being transferred out of the service, but his union is fighting back.

Caretakers say bear cubs are putting on weight, good candidates for release into the wild

Caretakers say cubs are good candidates for release into wild 0:43

Bryce Casavant, the B.C. conservation officer who was suspended after he refused to kill two black bear cubs near Port Hardy in July, is being transferred out of the Conservation Officer Service.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is filing a grievance over the transfer. The union had already filed a grievance over his suspension earlier this summer.

"Bryce Casavant was following clear procedures when he decided to save these young bears," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "He showed compassion and exercised caution — all good traits for a conservation officer -— so we are calling for his full reinstatement."

"We will pursue these issues to an arbitration hearing and ask an independent decision-maker to find there was no just cause for the employer's actions." 

Cubs in rehab

The bear cubs' mother was killed by Casavant after it repeatedly raided a freezer full of meat and salmon, but despite an order to kill the cubs too, Casavant took them to a veterinary hospital instead, believing they could be rehabilitated.

Two bear cubs — a brother and sister — were tranquilized after their mother was killed for repeatedly breaking into a freezer full of meat and salmon. (Julie Mackey)

They were later transferred to a recovery centre run by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, also on Vancouver Island.

Subsequently the cubs were approved for the orphaned bear cub rearing and release program, said Vivian Thomas, communications director for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. They'll stay at the centre until 2016 when they'll be released.

The incident sparked widespread calls on social media for Casavant's reinstatement, with British comedian Ricky Gervais even tweeting support.

Not disciplined, says government

Jamie Edwardson, spokesperson for the B.C. Public Service Agency, said that after reviewing the case, "No employee involved in this case has been subjected to any discipline."

The decision that resulted was to reassign the employee to an equivalent position within government, at no loss of salary, or classification.

But that does not sit well with the union's Stehanie Smith..

"Casavant should not have been suspended, and he should not be transferred from his job as a conservation officer," Smith said, adding she can't disclose the details of his new position in order to allow the office to get on with day-to-day affairs.

Casavant wants job he loves

Smith said that Casavant, who can't speak to the media about the issue, is disappointed about the transfer and wants to return to the job he loves.  

"He has a distinguished record of public service in law enforcement," Smith said. "Bryce Casavant did the right thing when he decided these young bears should be assessed for rehabilitation."

An arbitration hearing will be scheduled as soon as possible, the BCGEU said in a statement released Friday.

With files from Tina Lovgreen and Tamara Baluja

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