Canadian conservation officer fired for refusing to kill bear cubs wins legal battle
Photo: Jérémie LeBlond-Fontaine / Getty Images
A conservation officer in Canada, who was dismissed for refusing to kill two black bear cubs, has won a lengthy lawsuit over his dismissal.
"I feel like the black clouds that have been hanging over my family for years are finally separating," Bryce Casavant told the Guardian. "But the moment is bittersweet - my shooting shouldn't have happened at all."
Casavant was sent to a RV park near the town of Port Hardy, British Columbia, in 2015, where a black she-bear was rummaging through meat and salmon in a freezer.
According to the provincial policy, Casavant shot the mother but decided not to harm the boy. The residents said he was not seen eating or garbage.
"Instead of following the order to kill, he took the boys to a veterinarian who examined them and forwarded them to the North Island Recovery Center," the court documents said. The two boys were finally released into the wild.
But because he refused to obey orders, Casavant was suspended and then released.
Casavant fought for years at various levels of provincial courts against his dismissal, and this week the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.
"I kept fighting to clear my name. I have stood for civil service, honor and integrity for a long time. That's how I grew up and raised my daughter, ”said Casavant, who previously served with the Canadian military in Afghanistan. "I really feel like I've been targeted."
While the verdict does not reinstate him as a conservation officer, Casavant said the decision is a "confirmation" of his costly lawsuit that pits him against two provincial governments and his own union.
Nature conservation officers have long been aware of the tension between public security and dealing with “garbage bears”.
Related: Rare white grizzly bear spotted in the Canadian Rockies
Earlier this year, members of the First Nations community in British Columbia protested the planned killing of a grizzly bear that was discovered eating garbage. Instead, they campaigned for the government and conservation agency to relocate the bear. The bear was successfully moved to a new location, but was subsequently shot.
In January, Pacific Wildlife Conservation Group, working with Casavant, found that over 4,500 bears have been killed by conservation officers in the province, including 4,341 black bears, in the past eight years.
"[British Columbia] is not a government firing range," Casavant wrote in the report. "It is unreasonable to believe that over 4,000 black bears, including young bear cubs, were killed" as a last resort "."
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