Decision Date: October 6, 2005
Panel: Robert Wickett
Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 24(2)(a)-(e), 24(5); Wildlife Act General Regulation – s. 7.05; hunting licence, cancellation, excessive delay, prejudice.
Douglas Neal appealed the decision of the Deputy Director of Wildlife (the “Deputy Director”) to cancel Mr. Neal’s hunting licence and to declare him ineligible to obtain a hunting licence for seven years. Mr. Neal sought to have the period of ineligibility reduced.
In 2001, Mr. Neal was convicted in Provincial Court of ten violations of the Wildlife Act and one violation of the Waste Management Act. He was also convicted of an offence under the Firearm Act. As a consequence of this latter conviction, Mr. Neal was given a ten-year firearms ban commencing on February 9, 2001.
Mr. Neal submitted that the Deputy Director made an error of fact in his written decision by making reference to an offence that was committed by his hunting partner but not by him, and that the period of ineligibility would have been shorter had that particular offence not been taken into account. The Deputy Director submitted that the reference to that offence was a clerical mistake and that he did not, in fact, consider it in arriving at the conclusion that a seven-year period of ineligibility is appropriate. The Board found that a seven-year ineligibility period was appropriate, and that Mr. Neal’s convictions exhibit complete disregard for wildlife. The Board noted that the court found Mr. Neal to be an “incorrigible poacher”, and that a lifetime hunting ban was recommended by the court. However, the Board found that the seven-year period is within range of other periods of ineligibility imposed in similar circumstances.
Mr. Neal also submitted that a more than four-year delay by the Deputy Director in rendering his decision is excessive and ought to result in a reduction in the period of ineligibility. He further submitted that although evidence of prejudice is usually required, the law establishes that, at some point, the mere fact of delay creates prejudice and ought to result in a remedy.
The Deputy Director had no explanation for the first year of delay. However, he submitted that the latter three years of delay was due to a change in government at the provincial level. Such change, the Deputy Director asserted, resulted in staff reduction at the Wildlife Branch, which led to staff placing less priority on disciplinary decisions with respect to hunters and fishers.
The Deputy Director testified that he did not consider the delay in making his decision because there was no compelling reason for him to do so.
The Board concluded that the delay, although inordinate, was explained by the circumstances arising out of a change in government, and because there was no evidence of prejudice to Mr. Neal arising out of that delay, he was not entitled to a remedy.
The Deputy Director advised that it was his intention to impose a cumulative seven-year hunting ban upon Mr. Neal. Since Mr. Neal has been subject to a firearm ban since 2001, in effect he has been banned from hunting from 2001 through 2012, an eleven-year ban. The Board agreed with the Deputy Director’s submission that the period of ineligibility ought to be reduced so as to expire on the same day as the firearms ban, being February 8, 2011.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed in part.