Wildlife Act

What You Need to Know

Since European settlement voyageurs and cour de bois, farmers and cowboys, urban dwellers and country gentry hunted the land for subsidence and sport.   Before then, indigenous peoples premised their existence on traditional hunting culture.  Hunting and angling culture runs deep in this land and is enjoyed today over a million Canadians. Hunting and fishing has found significant revival among millennials and those wishing to eat a healthy diet.  

However, hunting and fishing laws can be a confusing network of domestic legislation, international treaties and vague regulations.  For the inexperienced hunter mistakes can and often do happen.  Misidentifying a mule deer from a whitetail, getting lost and shooting an animal outside of your designated wildlife unit, or just forgetting to obtain landowners permission.   Moreover, hunting charges are generally what we call “strict liability” offences meaning they are easily prosecuted with a lower burden on the Crown to prove their case.   Notwithstanding this, a conviction for a hunting infraction can result in a significant fine, a suspension of your hunting privileges and even the seizure of your personal property, such as your vehicle and rifle.   

Legal Terms and Definitions

Wildlife Act: Alberta provincial statute governing wildlife offences in the Province of Alberta.

WAPPRIITA and CITES: A combination of Canadian Federal legislation and an international treaty which regulate the importation of wildlife into Canada.  They work in tangent.  Specifically, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed on July 1, 1975 it is an international treaty signed by many nations worldwide to regulate commercial sale of animal parts and act as a deterrence to poaching. The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is Canadian legislation passed to meet its international obligations under CITES.

Hunting offences:  includes hunting without a license, hunting out of season, hunting in a dangerous manner, hunting at night, hunting on occupied land, hunting following aircraft flight, hunting of non residents etc.

Guiding offences: all the offences applying to hunters also applies to guides.

Possession offences: includes possession of illegally obtained wildlife, possession of wildlife without a license and possession of poisoned wildlife.

Importation offences: illegal importation of wildlife from outside the country, illegal importation of wildlife from one province to another, importing wildlife into Canada which was illegally hunted in another country.

Firearm offences: Include improper storage and transportation; improper discharges and capacity, etc.

Implications

Although wildlife offences are generally regarded as “non-criminal” the penalties can be severe.  Fines are enormous, often amounting to thousands of dollars. A hunter can have his property seized and permanently confiscated (this often includes vehicles, ATV’s, firearms). Moreover, your hunting privileges may be suspended and your firearm license could be in jeopardy.

How We Can Help

The lawyers at Dunn & Associates don’t just defend hunters, we are hunters.  We understand your passion and can relate to your matter first hand with actual field experience not simply “lawyering” from behind a fancy wood desk.  We have defended fish and wildlife offences of all stripes.  We are regularly consulted by other defence lawyers who seek our advice defending these matters.  We have defended hunters, taxidermists, importers and guides, and even fish and wildlife and conservation officers who have made an error in judgement.

Strategies for Defence
There is a lot we can do if you’ve been charged with a wildlife offence or an offence under WAPPRIITA.

Due Diligence:
Most wildlife offences are what we call in Canada “strict liability”, meaning the Crown does not need to prove full mens rea (guilty mind) to obtain a conviction.  So long as they can prove you committed the actus reus (evil or unlawful act) of the offence they will be entitled to a conviction.  However, an accused can always raise the defence of ‘due diligence’ meaning you took the care that a reasonable person would have in the circumstances yet notwithstanding, due to circumstances or bad luck, ran afoul of the law.  For example, a sheep hunter who shoots a non-legal ram however took the proper time to view the horns and simply made an error in judgment might be entitled to the defence of due diligence.   

Running a defence, any defence
Most hunters, guides or importers who are charged simply plead guilty.  Fish and wildlife officer, conservation officers seldom see the inside of a court room.  Crown prosecutors seldom have the opportunity to run such cases.  As such, sometimes much traction can be afforded by simply not “folding your tent” and setting the matter down for trial. We have won cases on all sorts of miscellaneous legal points.   

Call us. We can help.

If you have been charged with any offence under the Wildlife Act or WAPPRIITA give our Calgary criminal lawyers a call. Whether a momentary lapse of judgment or being falsely accused of something you didn’t do, your freedom is our focus.