• Derek Pitt v. Deputy Director of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management

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    Decision Date: October 28, 2016

    Panel: David Searle, Q.C., C.M.

    Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 24; hunting licence suspension; contravention; administrative penalty; new evidence; application for costs

    Derek Pitt appealed a decision of the Deputy Director of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management (the “Deputy Director”), Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (the “Ministry”). The Deputy Director cancelled the Appellant’s hunting licence and suspended Mr. Pitt’s hunting licence privileges for two years commencing on June 1, 2016. In addition, the Deputy Director required Mr. Pitt to successfully complete the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education program before his hunting licence privileges may be reinstated.

    The Deputy Director’s decision arose from the following circumstances. From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Pitt was either warned or fined for several contraventions of the law regarding his hunting and angling activities. Mr. Pitt was a constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) when the contraventions occurred, and he had many years of experience with hunting and fishing. The Deputy Director concluded that Mr. Pitt had committed seven contraventions of the Wildlife Act and one contravention of a regulation under the BC Fisheries Act, during four separate incidents. The contraventions included using two fishing lines, failing to cancel a species licence after killing a black bear, discharging a firearm in a “no shooting” area, unlawfully possessing meat from a bear, failing to retrieve the edible portions of two bears, and hunting without a valid limited entry hunting authorization. The Conservation Officer Service (“COS”) recommended a five-year suspension of Mr. Pitt’s hunting licence. One of the contraventions resulted in an automatic one-year hunting prohibition. The Deputy Director found that an additional year of suspension was warranted for the other violations.

    Mr. Pitt appealed on the grounds that the two-year suspension was overly harsh, as he did not intend to contravene the law, he had no training in BC’s hunting legislation, he had learned from his mistakes, and the licensing action had a significant effect on his life. He also asserted that the COS acted in a retaliatory nature by recommending that the Deputy Director take licensing action. Mr. Pitt requested that the Board rescind the two-year suspension, and impose a one-year suspension.

    The Deputy Director opposed the appeal, and requested that the Board award costs against Mr. Pitt on the basis that his appeal was frivolous and vexatious.

    After the hearing concluded, Mr. Pitt requested that the Board accept new evidence which showed that the RCMP had ordered Mr. Pitt to forfeit a number of days of pay for breaching the RCMP code of conduct in relation to the incidents that led to the Deputy Director’s decision. The Board found that the new evidence was relevant and should be accepted into the record.

    The Board confirmed that the evidence established that Mr. Pitt committed eight contraventions in total during four incidents. The Board reviewed the circumstances of each incident, and Mr. Pitt’s explanations and submissions regarding the incidents. The Board found that several of the violations were serious in nature, and Mr. Pitt is an experienced hunter. The violations occurred over several years, but five violations stemmed from one hunting trip. Mr. Pitt expressed remorse, but the Board found that he minimized the importance of learning the hunting laws in BC, and blamed the licensing action on retaliation by the COS rather than accepting that it was a consequence of his prior actions. The Board also found that deterrence was a significant factor in this case. Mr. Pitt knowingly and intentionally committed several of the violations. Finally, as an RCMP officer, the Board found that Mr. Pitt had a greater responsibility to know the law and set a good example for hunters and citizens, but he failed to do. In all of the circumstances, the Board concluded that an appropriate administrative penalty would be a four-year suspension of Mr. Pitt’s hunting privileges.

    Finally, the Board found that, although the appeal was without merit, it was neither vexatious nor frivolous, and the circumstances did not warrant an order for costs against Mr. Pitt.

    Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed, and the Deputy Director’s application for costs was denied.