Decision Date: November 25, 2021
Court: B.C.S.C., Justice Punnett
Citation: 2021 BCSC 2300
Abraham Dougan sought a judicial review of the Board’s decision in Abraham Dougan v. Deputy Director of Wildlife and Habitat, Decision No. 2018-WIL-008(a), December 23, 2019. The Board had confirmed a decision of the Deputy Director of Wildlife and Habitat Branch (“the Deputy Director”), within the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, cancelling Mr. Dougan’s hunting licences and imposing a two-year prohibition on hunting and his eligibility to apply for a hunting licence.
The Deputy Director made the decision after considering that Mr. Dougan was found guilty in 2016 of four offences related to a recreational hunt in 1999. He was not convicted of those offences due to an infringement of his right under section 11(b) Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) to a trial within a reasonable time. The Deputy Director also considered that Mr. Dougan and a hunter he had guided pled guilty in 2014 to two offences under the Yukon Wildlife Act, for wasting the meat of two animals and commencing a hunt when not permitted to do so. For the 2014 offences, the Yukon court sentenced Mr. Dougan to fines totalling $15,000 and a 20-year prohibition on hunting or guiding in the Yukon. In addition, the Deputy Director considered warnings issued to Mr. Dougan by BC Conservation Officers.
Mr. Dougan appealed the Deputy Director’s decision. He asked the Board to reverse the decision on the grounds that the Deputy Director’s proceedings were barred by an eighteen-month limitation period on prosecuting offences under section 103(1) of the Wildlife Act. He also contended that the decision should be reversed under sections 7 and 11 of the Charter and the principles of issue estoppel and abuse of process because of: delay in some of the court proceedings and the Deputy Director’s proceedings; duplication between some of the court’s and Deputy Director’s proceedings; misconduct by Conservation Officers and Ministry officials; and, an absence of proven substance to the warnings.
On appeal, the Board found that the limitation period in section 103(1) of the Wildlife Act applies only to prosecutions for offences, and not to administrative proceedings. The Board also held that section 11 of the Charter applies to prosecutions for offences, but not to administrative proceedings. In addition, neither Mr. Dougan’s work as a guide outfitter nor his choice to eat wild meat were protected by section 7 of the Charter. Further, there was no evidence that any delay in the Deputy Director’s proceedings caused prejudice to Mr. Dougan. Rather, it was reasonable that the Deputy Director’s proceedings did not begin until the court proceedings concluded. Regarding the alleged misconduct by Conservation Officers and Ministry officials, the Board concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove the allegations. Moreover, the Deputy Director’s proceedings were not a duplication or re-litigation of court proceedings, as the Wildlife Act expressly authorizes administrative proceedings in addition to offence proceedings. Finally, after taking into account previous decisions involving hunting prohibitions, the 20-year hunting prohibition for the Yukon court convictions, and the impact of publicity during that trial, the Board confirmed the two-year prohibition imposed by the Deputy Director.
Mr. Dougan sought a review of the Board’s decision by the B.C. Supreme Court. The Court held that the deferential standard of “reasonableness” applied to its review of the Board’s decision, including the Board’s findings on the Charter issues. The Court noted that when reviewing an administrative decision that implicates Charter rights, the standard of review is reasonableness (Doré v. Barreau du Quebec, 2012 SCC 12, at para. 3), and a reasonable decision will proportionately balance Charter values and statutory objectives, falling within “a range of possible, acceptable outcomes” (Doré at paras. 55-56).
On the Charter issues, the Court held that the Board reached its conclusion after a review of the applicable jurisprudence, and its analysis was entitled to deference. There was no basis to interfere with the Board’s conclusions, which were reasonable. In addition, the Court found that the Board’s conclusions on the other issues were not unreasonable and were entitled to deference.
In conclusion, the Court dismissed Mr. Dougan’s petition, and confirmed the Board’s decision.