Igloolik elder won't be charged for killing polar bear and cub

Nunavut's Department of Environment investigated after an elder shot two polar bears in January. Now, the department says no charges will be laid.

Department investigated after elder Peter Avva shot 2 bears near Igloolik in January

A file photo of a mama bear and her cub near Churchill, Man. Elder Peter Avva of Igloolik, Nunavut, won't be charged for killing a polar bear and a cub on Jan. 4, the territory's Department of Environment said. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)

Nunavut's Department of Environment won't be charging an elder from Igloolik after he shot and killed a mother polar bear and a cub last month.

An investigation was launched after the department's wildlife officers in the community found out Peter Avva killed two bears on Jan. 4.

"It was a very dangerous situation," recalled Avva in Inuktitut.

In January, Avva said he had been instructed by a wildlife officer to scare off the bears after they were found entering the community. Avva decided to kill the bears instead.

"We should not be trying to scare polar bears away. It is not Inuit tradition," he Avva. "We do not want Inuit to be mauled to death by polar bears."

"[The department] has determined the harvest of the bears was an act of defence of life and property," said a spokesperson for the territorial environment department in an emailed response. 

It added that under the law, any person can kill wildlife in defence of life and/or property. 

When a kill occurs, the department said it investigates whether it was justified.

If justified, the hide and any useable meat are given to the local hunters and trappers organization for distribution "as they see fit," the spokesperson wrote.

But the elder says the community still hasn't received the polar bear pelts back.

Elder wants lawmakers to visit Inuit communities

Avva said on the day the community harvested the two polar bears, a wildlife officer came and took the pelts away from him.

"The wildlife officer stole the pelts," said Avva. "He just took them without my permission. That made me very angry."

The community was able to keep the meat. 

But Avva said while many Inuit know about laws surrounding polar bears, few know about the consequences. 

He says he wants lawmakers to visit Inuit communities to explain the rules to community members and hear their input.

"Those people who make regulations have not come to our communities to find out who we really are. Inuit should be the lead when it comes to decision-making.

"It seems the government cares more about polar bears than us Inuit human beings," said Avva.

With files from Jordan Konek and Sara Frizzell