Canadian Conservation Officer Fired For Refusing To Kill Bear Cubs Wins Legal Battle To Clear His Name
A Canadian conservation officer who was fired for refusing to kill two black bear cubs has won a legal battle over his termination.
Bryce Casavant was fired in 2015 after being dispatched to a mobile home park near the British Columbia town of Port Hardy, where residents had seen a female black bear rummaging through a freezer full of meat and salmon.
When he arrived, he shot and killed the mother under the province’s policy – in which a bear has to be killed if it is seen to be reliant on human food – but decided not to harm the cubs, as locals told him they hadn’t been eating the food.
‘Instead of complying with the kill order, he took the cubs to a veterinarian who assessed them and transferred them to the North Island Recovery Centre,’ the court documents read. The cubs were eventually released into the wild.
However, because of Casavant’s refusal to follow the order to kill the cubs, his supervising officer filed a complaint against him and a day later, a formal Notice of Complaint was issued alleging ‘the disciplinary default of neglect of duty’.
He was then suspended pending an investigation into the allegation, before being fired shortly afterwards. Casavant spent years fighting his termination, and just this week the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in his favour.
‘I feel like the black clouds that have hung over my family for years are finally starting to part,’ Casavant told The Guardian. ‘But the moment is bittersweet – my firing should have never happened in the first place.’
I kept fighting so that I could clear my name. I’ve long stood for public service, honour and integrity. It’s how I was raised and how I’ve raised my daughter. I really feel that I was targeted.
Casavant, who had been with the service for two years before he got fired, said the decision was a ‘vindication’ of his costly legal battle, which saw him appealing his termination at various levels of provincial courts.
Casavant has been a leading critic of the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service’s practices since he was fired, and has been a vocal advocate of establishing independent oversight over the body. He has also helped others who are opposing the way BC conservation officers carry out their duties, with many criticising them for killing bears too readily.
In January, conservation group Pacific Wild – which works with Casavant – found more than 4,500 bears had been killed by conservation officers in the province over the last eight years, including 4,341 black bears.
‘[British Columbia] isn’t a shooting gallery for government employees,’ Casavant wrote in the report. ‘It’s unreasonable to believe that, including juvenile bear cubs, over 4,000 black bears were killed “as a last resort”.’
Ultimately, the court’s judgement does not reinstate Casavant as a conservation officer, but he continues to work to improve the body’s practices.
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British Columbia Courts