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British Columbia Conservation Officer Service

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British Columbia Conservation Officer Service
Armorial bearings of BC COS
Armorial bearings of BC COS
Common nameConservation officer
AbbreviationBCCOS
MottoIntegrity, Service and Protection
Agency overview
Formed1980[1]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionBritish Columbia, Canada
Legal jurisdictionProvince of British Columbia
Governing bodyMinistry of Environment (British Columbia)
Constituting instrument
Operational structure
HeadquartersVictoria, BC
Elected officer responsible
  • The Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Agency executive
  • Chief CO Doug Forsdick (Re't). Chief CO Cameron Schley (appointed)., chief conservation officer
Website
Conservation Officer Service Homepage

The British Columbia Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) is responsible for protecting the environment and natural resources in British Columbia. Conservation officers are peace officers, armed, and enforce 6 federal statutes and 25 provincial statutes, including the Species at Risk Act, Liquor Control and Licensing Act, Wildlife Act and Environmental Management Act.[2]

The Province of BC states: "Conservation Officers are highly trained, dedicated individuals [...] they hold Special Provincial Constable Status under the Police Act and have unrestricted appointment to enforce Acts and Statues, and protect the public and preserve the peace. They work with private and public partners such as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations Resource Officers, the RCMP, Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries, First Nations, and local and provincial stakeholders to reduce human-wildlife conflict."[3]

The COS is headquartered at Victoria and operates out of 44 office locations. The COS is involved in outreach and education, compliance monitoring and verification, public reporting, investigations and enforcement actions.[4]

History and highlights

On July 1, 1905, British Columbia established the department for the Protection of Game and Forests, hired the first game and forest warden which eventually grew into the BCCOS today.[5]

From 1918 to 1929, game wardens were abolished and the British Columbia Provincial Police took over the responsibility of enforcing wildlife legislations.

In 1961, game wardens were officially renamed "conservation officers".

In 1980, Conservation Officer Services became a distinct part of the ministry.

In 1983, conservation officers are appointed as special provincial constable. Up until 1987, all COs were males.[6]

Between the years of 1997–2000, COs were given a much wider authority in their law enforcement duties, including the ability to conduct surveillance, seize property and to arrest and detain.

In 2002, chief conservation officer became a legislated position and was placed in charge of BCCOS. They can now designate anyone to become conservation officers, auxiliary conservation officers or special conservation officers, depending on the needs of the agency.

July 1, 2005, marked the 100th anniversary of the first appointment of a game warden.[7]

Officers

At one time the service had regular and seasonal officers. Currently, there are full-time regular and special conservation officers.

Ranks

Controversy

Conservation officers are sometimes required to euthanize wildlife they deem a risk to public safety or property. However, not all euthanizings are straightforward, and much controversy has arisen in recent years.

Casavant v British Columbia

In spring of 2015, Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant did not follow orders[8] to kill the two cubs of a female bear who was killed after she continued to raid a freezer full of meat and salmon. Casavant took the cubs to a veterinary hospital, and they were then transferred to a rehabilitation facility which eventually released them into their natural environment. He was suspended for refusing to follow the order, despite the cubs showing no signs of being a danger to people or property. The suspension, and subsequent public outcry, generated international media attention, including a tweet from popular British comedian Ricky Gervais.[9] The two bear cubs the Conservation Officer Service ordered killed were successfully rehabilitated and released by North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.[10]

Judicial review

The decision of a conservation officer to kill a healthy, potentially orphaned bear cub, before even seeing or evaluating it and with full knowledge that a wildlife rehabilitator was able and ready to accept the bear for rehabbing, lead to the launch of a series of complaints against the Conservation Officer Service and, ultimately, a petition for a judicial review with the Supreme Court. The Conservation Officer Service reviewed the initial complaint internally, and then reviewed the final decision internally. Both stated that the officer acted within the scope of his authority to kill the bear cub.[11] The complaint was initiated by the witness who found the bear cub originally and wildlife non-profit The Fur-Bearers.[12]

Handling and killing of bears

Accounts of bears being tranquilized and dying,[13] falling out of trees,[14][15] and the high number of bear cubs (bears of the year) killed compared to sent to rehabilitation[16] have resulted in numerous media articles and critical questions about protocol, decision-making, and oversight. Another incident involving a bear which was cornered by a conservation officer on a marina and not given a means of escape is under examination in media[17] and throughout social media. The officer responsible in this case is the same officer who ordered Officer Bryce Casavant to kill two bear cubs.[18]

References

  1. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1980) Archived 2014-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ COS Program Plan Archived May 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Province of BC, Government. "BCCOS". About BCCOS. Province of BC. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  4. ^ Conservation Officer, Field Operations Job Descriptions Archived August 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1905) Archived September 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1980) Archived 2014-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Conservation Officer Service 100 Years of Service". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  8. ^ "B.C. conservation officer suspended after refusing to kill bear cubs". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  9. ^ "Ricky Gervais tweets support for suspended conservation officer Bryce Casavant". Global News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  10. ^ "Bear cubs saved by conservation officer released to Vancouver Island wilderness". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  11. ^ Pynn, ,Larry. "Animal-welfare group launches court challenge of B.C. bear-kill policy". www.theprovince.com. Retrieved 2017-08-28.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "The Fur-Bearers challenge cub killing in judicial review". The Fur-Bearers. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  13. ^ Barrett, Brandon. "Bear cub dies after being captured during Whistler Ironman". Pique. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  14. ^ "Bear in Kelowna falls 40 feet from tree after being tranquilized; later euthanized". Global News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  15. ^ "Black bear sighting scares Burnaby school and neighbourhood". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  16. ^ Pynn, ,Larry. "Conservation officers kill more small bear cubs than take to rehab centres, new stats reveal". www.theprovince.com. Retrieved 2017-08-28.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "UPDATE: Conservation officer felt black bear posed too great a risk - Campbell River Mirror". Campbell River Mirror. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  18. ^ "Mike Newton ordered Bryce Casavant to kill BC bear cubs: unredacted emails". bulletproofcourier.blogspot.ca. Archived from the original on 2017-09-13. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
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British Columbia Conservation Officer Service
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