B.C. conservation officer fired for refusing to kill bear cubs still fighting to get job back | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. conservation officer fired for refusing to kill bear cubs still fighting to get job back

FILE PHOTO - Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
March 03, 2021 - 6:00 PM

A B.C. conservation officer who made international headlines in 2015 when he was fired for refusing to euthanize two bear cubs and later won his case at the province's highest court has launched more legal action after the province refused to allow him to return to work.

The David and Goliath case saw B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant take his dismissal to the B.C. Court of Appeal which ruled that the legal process used to fire him had been flawed.

However, nine months after the appeal court's ruling Casavant is still unemployed and the province is refusing to allow him to return to work.

“I've been unlawfully removed as a provincial conservation officer as the courts have pointed out and I have a lawful entitlement to return to my career,” Casavant told iNFOnews.ca today, March 3.

On Feb. 23, Casavant filed a petition at the B.C Supreme Court in an attempt to get his job back.

The petition to the court says that as the B.C. Appeal Court ruled that earlier proceedings taken against Casavant weren’t valid this meant the conservation officer had never been lawfully terminated so therefore still remained a conservation office.

Casavant said if he hadn’t lost his job he’d be in a supervisory position making about $85,000 a year now. His petition is also asking for the loss of five years of wages.

The case dates back to 2015 when Casavant was dismissed after he refused to euthanize two bear cubs. The cubs had reportedly been eating garbage at a Port Hardy mobile home. He did euthanize the mother but then took the cubs to a vet and they were transferred to a wildlife park. Jordan and Athena, as the cubs were later named, were later successfully released back into the wild.

But while the bear cubs headed back into the forest, Casavant headed into a long drawn-out legal battle over his job.

The fight appeared to be over in June 2020 when the appeal court ruled that special constables are police, so discipline-related matters fall under the Police Act and the Labour Relations Board had no legal authority over his dismissal.

"I said, with that behind us I'll see you Monday,” Casavant said.

But the B.C. Conversation Officer Service didn’t see it that way.

"I received a response saying there was no longer a position for me… they said don't show up to the workplace,” he said.

While the appeal court's decision went in his favour it didn't order the Conservation Officer Service to instate Casavant as would normally happen in a labour dispute.

The province then took it to the Supreme Court of Canada asking for a review of the ruling but the court refused to review the case.

Regardless, Casavant still wasn’t allowed back to work.

The 37-year-old is adamant he’s not doing this to prove a point and genuinely wants his job back.

"I take the role of a law enforcement officer in this province very seriously and I have every intention of returning to work," he said.

The stress of the case has taken a huge emotional and financial toll on him and his family. His daughter was two-and-a-half when the incident happened, she’s now eight.

Since being fired Casavant has had contract jobs and even completed a Ph.D. which he used in part to win his court of appeal case. But he’s currently unemployed.

He still says he has no regrets about his actions on the day he was told to kill the bear cubs.

"I declined an unlawful order… the decision of whether to shoot or not to shoot will always lie with the constable,” he said.

He reiterated he just wants his job back.

"Despite the petition being filed it is my sincerest hope that there is a diplomatic solution here and that the errors that were made are simply corrected," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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