• Allan Steele v. Deputy Director, Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management

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    Decision Date:  October 26, 2012

    Panel:  Tony Fogarassy

    Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 24(2), 24(5), 33(2), 35(2)(a), 81, 82(1); hunting licence; contravention; suspension; cancellation; penalty; new hearing; jurisdiction; delay

    Allan R. Steele appealed a decision of the Deputy Director, Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management (the “Director”), Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The Director found that Mr. Steele committed eight contraventions of the Wildlife Act as a result of activities that occurred during a hunting trip in August 2005. The contraventions related to the killing of a moose and a bear, and statements that were made to conservation officers. Specifically, the Director found that Mr. Steele: shot a moose but did not cancel his species licence for the moose; illegally possessed the moose because he had not cancelled his species licence; shot a black bear but did not cancel his species licence for it and failed to retrieve the bear; knowingly made false statements to a conservation officer at a roadside check about a moose that was shot by someone else; knowingly cancelled his species licence for a moose that someone else had shot; allowed his moose species licence to be used by another person; and was in unlawful possession of a moose shot by someone else for which Mr. Steele had no transfer documents. Some of the Director’s findings were based on statements made by Mr. Steele and other hunters to undercover conservation officers during the hunting trip. The other evidence against Mr. Steele included statements made to conservation officers at a roadside check at the end of the hunting trip. As a result, the Director cancelled Mr. Steele’s hunting licence effective December 1, 2011, and suspended his hunting privileges for three years until November 30, 2014.

    Mr. Steele appealed to the Board on the grounds that he did not make the alleged incriminating statements, or if he did, the statements were stories that he had embellished after consuming alcohol. He also submitted that he was tricked by the undercover officers into saying things that were untrue, and that the officers encouraged the hunters to contravene the law. In addition, he submitted that he was prejudiced by the delay between the occurrence of the alleged contraventions in August 2005 and the issuance of the Director’s decision in October 2011.

    The Director submitted that there was sufficient cause to warrant the penalties, and that the three-year suspension was lenient. The Director also submitted that the Board should defer to his decision.

    First, the Board considered whether it should defer to the Director’s decision. The Board found that sections 101.1(4) and (5) of the Wildlife Act empower the Board to conduct appeals by way of a new hearing, and to make any decision that the Director could have made and that the Board considers appropriate in the circumstances. The Board is also empowered to hear new evidence, and is not limited to reviewing the evidence that was before the Director. As a result, the Board concluded that it owes no deference to the Director.

    Next, the Board considered whether Mr. Steele was prejudiced by the passage of time between the date of the contraventions and the issuance of the Director’s decision. The Board found that the majority of the delay was due to the Director waiting for criminal proceedings against Mr. Steele to conclude. Thereafter, 18 months transpired between the issuance of the Director’s decision and the date when Mr. Steele was notified that the Director was considering levying administrative penalties. The Board found that there was no evidence that Mr. Steele had been prejudiced by the delay.

    The Board then considered whether Mr. Steele had committed the eight contraventions, and whether the penalty was appropriate in the circumstances. Based on the evidence, the Board concluded that Mr. Steele committed the contraventions, and there was no evidence that the undercover officers used trickery, duress or intimidation to cause Mr. Steele to break the law or make incriminating statements. The Board found that Mr. Steele was an experienced hunter, who had exhibited disrespect for wildlife resources and showed no willingness to take responsibility for his actions. The Board noted that the Director had taken those factors into account, along with the delay in issuing the penalties, and the fact that Mr. Steele had paid a fine for some of the contraventions. In all of the circumstances, the Board concluded that the cancellation of Mr. Steele’s hunting licence, and three-year suspension of his hunting privileges, was appropriate.

    Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.