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What is a Wildlife Offence? What Does Regulatory Offence Mean?

Today our criminal lawyers Calgary would like to talk about wildlife and regulatory offence. A “regulatory offence” is quasi-criminal in nature. Many provincial statutes contain regulatory offences. There are two types of standards for these offences. They are absolute liability offences and strict liability offences. The standard for proving the liability of an accused person is lowered for the prosecutor (as contrasted to Criminal Code offences) through the partial or total removal of the mens rea or (mental intent) requirement.
To be found guilty of an absolute liability offence, a person must have committed only the actus reus (the act or actions) of the offence. For absolute liability offences, a person’s mens rea (mental intent) is not relevant. For example, if one is caught operating a vehicle travelling in excess of the speed limit, it does not matter if he or she was aware of the speed limit; a ticket will be issued. This is because of the legal principle ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse). If the prosecutor produces admissible evidence to demonstrate the person was travelling in excess of the speed limit, the offence will be proven, and the person will be convicted.
The second category of regulatory offences is strict liability offences. These include offences in which the actus reus imports liability of an accused person. Offences that are created with the intent of enforcing or enhancing public welfare, including many environmental offences, wildlife offences, and animal cruelty/negligence, are generally categorized as strict liability offences. In cases like these, if a person can prove, on a balance of probabilities, that he or she took all reasonable care in the circumstances of committing the actus reus, they will not be found guilty. This defence is referred to as the defence of “due diligence”.
The court must consider what a reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances when assessing whether someone took all reasonable care. The defence of due diligence may also be available to an accused if he or she believed in a mistaken set of facts which, if true, would render the act innocent or if he or she took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence. What is considered reasonable in assessing the defence of due diligence depends on the facts of the specific circumstances.

The Wildlife Act of Alberta sets out several regulatory offences, which are strict liability offences. The purpose of the act is to provide for the protection and conservation of wild animals in Alberta. It sets out controls for hunting and trapping of wildlife. The Act also governs the possession of wildlife and wildlife parts, as well as the sale, import and export of wildlife, controlled animals and endangered species.
Commercial activities such as guiding, buying fur, taxidermy, tanning and zoos are required to operate under licenses or permits pursuant to the Act. The Act also sets out.

prohibitions, offences, and penalties.

Hunting is heavily regulated under the Act and can be found throughout. Hunting is defined as:

  • shoot at, harass or worry,
  • chase, pursue, follow after or on the trail of, search for, flush, stalk or lie in wait for,
  • capture or wilfully injure or kill,
  • attempt to capture, injure or kill, or
  • assist another person in any of the above activities while that other person is so haunting.

However, an animal is not being hunted when the person is not carrying a weapon, and their activity is “restricted to watching, photographing, drawing or painting a picture of the animal”, or where they are seeking humane methods to recapture a wildlife or controlled (exotic) animal that has escaped from permitted premises (such as a zoo).

This definition of hunting applies even where a person is hunting decoy animals set out by enforcement authorities for purposes of entrapment (e.g. moose silhouettes). It is an offence to shoot or hunt from a vehicle, for example. If you are caught shooting at one of these decoy silhouettes from a vehicle, you will likely be charged with several offences under the Act.

Hunting verse trapping was considered by the Provincial Court in R v Newman, 2018 ABPC 143. In this case, the accused argued he was trapping and that when a bear got caught in the trap, he should be found not guilty because he had no intention of hunting a black bear. The Court conducted a statutory interpretation analysis and concluded there was an ambiguity that was ultimately resolved in his favour. Specifically, the court opined that once a trap is set, the trapper does not have absolute control as to what may fall into the trap. Therefore, it could not be said that he captured or willfully killed or injured the bear (part of the definition of hunting, see above). It was unfair to hold a trapper to a standard similar to that of a guarantor that a bear would not fall into the trap. The Court ultimately concluded that was outside the intent of the legislature and that the accused did not willfully trap or hunt the bear.

This case is an example of a strict liability offence in the regulatory context and the considerations a court will consider when assessing whether the prosecution has proved its case. You can always reach out to serious lawyers defending serious allegations if you or your loved ones require legal help. Our experienced and professional team of criminal lawyers is always willing to take on any case we could be a great help in.