Decision Date: December 27, 2018
Panel: Gabriella Lang
Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 24, 26(1)(c), 35(2)(a), 36, 39(1)(a), 101.1(4); Administrative Tribunals Act – s. 47(1)(c); Hunting Licensing Regulation – ss. 7, 17; Hunting Regulation – s. 15; hunting licence suspension; contravention; administrative penalty; bias; application for costs
Li Zhu Liu appealed a decision of the Deputy Director of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management (the “Deputy Director”), Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (the “Ministry”). The Deputy Director cancelled the Appellant’s hunting licence, and suspended his hunting licence privileges for ten years commencing on February 1, 2018. In addition, the Deputy Director required the Appellant 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 Appellant’s involvement in several hunting-related violations of the Wildlife Act and its regulations between 2013 and 2016. During that time, the Appellant held resident hunting licences, and participated in hunting trips with other individuals in BC.
Specifically, in October 2013, a Conservation Officer Service (“COS”) officer investigated a complaint of illegal hunting, and found a cow moose that had been shot dead in a field, with empty rifle casings nearby. There was no open season for cow moose in that area at that time. Following an investigation, the empty rifle casings were matched to one of the Appellant’s rifles. The Appellant admitted to hunting in the area, but stated that he did not think that his group had “hit” anything.
Also, in October 2013, a witness observed the Appellant and two hunting companions standing over a recently shot cow moose. The cow moose was shot outside of open season and was left at the roadside. The Appellant and his companions were arrested later that day. The Appellant admitted to shooting the cow moose, but stated that he was mistaken about the gender of the moose. He referred to his and his companions’ lack of hunting experience. Subsequently, the Appellant took responsibility for the illegal harvest of the cow moose.
In September 2014, the Appellant shot a white tailed deer and improperly cancelled his licence for the wrong species, a mule deer. He also incompletely cancelled the species licence by failing to identify the animal’s sex, and processed the deer in a way that removed evidence of the species and sex.
During the 2014/15 hunting season, the Appellant obtained 16 deer species licences, which exceeded the legal limit of 15 species licences for deer.
Finally, in October 2016, based on a complaint of illegal hunting, a COS officer inspected a deer that the Appellant had harvested, and determined that the Appellant had shot and killed a 3-point mule deer when there was only an open season for 4-point (or more) mule deer.
As a result of these incidents, the Appellant was charged with offences under the Wildlife Act and its regulations, and pled guilty to two charges in BC Provincial Court. In June 2018, he was sentenced and fined $500 on each count, for a total of $1,000. Also, the Court prohibited him from hunting for two years unless he hunts with a licensed guide outfitter, and ordered him to pay $1,500 on each count (a total of $3,000) to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
Under section 24 of the Wildlife Act, in addition to any court-ordered penalties, a director may cancel a hunting licence and prohibit a person from hunting for any cause considered sufficient by the director. After considering the penalties imposed on other hunters for similar violations, and the information presented by the COS and the Appellant, the Deputy Director concluded that a 10-year licence suspension was appropriate.
The Appellant appealed the Deputy Director’s decision on the grounds that the penalty was excessive. The Appellant also argued that the Deputy Director’s evidence presented during the appeal process showed that he was biased against the Appellant. The Appellant asked the Board to allow him to hunt with a licensed guide outfitter during the suspension period. Alternatively, he asked that the period of prohibition be reduced to two years, with the exception of allowing him to hunt during that period with a guide outfitter. He submitted that he would no longer be a resident of Canada, and therefore, he would be required to hire a licensed guide outfitter to hunt in BC. Therefore, the ten-year licence suspension was not required to achieve the purpose of protecting wildlife.
The Deputy Director opposed the appeal, and requested that the Board award costs against the Appellant on the basis that the appeal raised no real justiciable question, had little prospect of success, and was lacking in substance.
Regarding the allegation that the Deputy Director was biased against the Appellant, the Board noted that appeals are conducted as a new hearing of the matter, and the person who made the appealed decision will normally testify and be cross-examined. In doing so, the decision-maker may explain the basis for his or her decision, and make arguments in response to the issues raised by the appeal. The Board found that there was no evidence of a reasonable apprehension of bias, or actual bias, on the part of the Deputy Director when he made his decision, or in his appeal submissions.
In assessing the appropriateness of the penalty imposed by the Deputy Director, the Board considered the evidence that the Appellant described as mitigating factors, and the evidence that the Deputy Director described as aggravating factors. The Appellant claimed that he now took responsibility for the violations, and that the violations were attributable to his inexperience and ignorance. However the Board found that the violations committed by the Appellant, individually and cumulatively, were very serious: shooting game out of season, failing to correctly identify species, and abandoning wildlife that were shot. As a further aggravating factor, the violations were committed over several years, and the Appellant made no effort to mend his ways until 2017, when he faced Court charges and the suspension of his hunting licences. The Board held that there was clearly a pattern of poor and unethical hunting practices by the Appellant over several years, with no acceptance of responsibility until he faced serious consequences. The Board also considered penalties that were previously imposed on others for similar violations. The Board concluded that the penalty imposed on the Appellant was appropriate in the circumstances.
Finally, the Board found that although the appeal was unsuccessful, it was not frivolous, brought for an improper purpose, or lacking in substance. The Board held that the circumstances did not warrant an order for costs.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed, and the Deputy Director’s application for costs was denied.