Decision Date: May 29, 2002
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 1 – definition of “person”, 2, 19; Permit Regulation – ss. 2, 5, 6; reasonable apprehension of bias; conflict of interest; educational purpose; possession permit; grizzly bear
The Houston and District Chamber of Commerce (the “Chamber of Commerce”) appealed the decision of the Regional Fish and Wildlife Manager (the “Regional Manager”) to issue a permit that authorized the possession of a grizzly bear hide by the Mayor of the Town of Smithers, on behalf of the Town and the Northwest Wildlife for the Future. The permit allowed the hide to be displayed for educational purposes.
Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Wildlife for the Future had applied to the Regional Manager for a permit to possess the hide for educational purposes. The Chamber of Commerce argued that there were defects in the permit application process, that the Regional Manager was biased and in a conflict of interest when he considered the applications, and that the decision to issue the permit to the Mayor of the Town of Smithers was unfair.
The Board found that there was no procedure for evaluating an “educational purpose” in the Wildlife Act or Regulation. The Board also found that there were no policy guidelines to assist the Regional Manager in deciding whether to issue such a permit. The Board found that there was no evidence of prejudice to the Chamber of Commerce’s ability to submit its application as a result of any confusion about the process of applying for a permit. The Board concluded that any defects in the permit application process were not sufficient to justify a rescission of the permit.
The Board found that there was no objective evidence that the Regional Manager was not a neutral arbiter. The Board found that the allegations of bias and conflict of interest were not supported. The Board also noted that, even if the facts had shown a reasonable apprehension of bias, the appeal was conducted as a new hearing, and any error or defect in the prior proceeding would be corrected by the appeal proceeding.
The Board found that the decision to grant the permit to the Mayor of the Town of Smithers was reasonable in the circumstances. The Board found that both permit applications proposed to publicly display the bear in a manner that provided roughly the same educational value, but that the Chamber of Commerce’s application did not provide sufficiently clear or certain plans regarding where to situate the display. Therefore, the Board found that the proposal by the Northwest Wildlife for the Future to display the bear at the Smithers airport was the preferable option. However, the Board noted that the permit expires in 2007, and that the Chamber of Commerce could re-apply for a permit at that time.
The decision of the Regional Manager was upheld. The appeal was dismissed.