For Immediate Release
August 1, 2019
Coquitlam, BC – Recent events in Coquitlam are again raising concerns about the authorities of the BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) and its lack of independent oversight.
On July 30th 2019 three individuals were arrested after the BC Conservation Officer service alleges they obstructed one of its officers who was attempting to kill a mother bear and her cubs. Two phones, one containing video, were seized by the RCMP. The thee individuals were alleged to have committed a provincial and criminal offence of obstruction.
The BCCOS initially stated to Global BC that the arrested parties “physically obstructed” Conservation Officers. Following a media conference and critical questions from reporters, this was later reduced an alternative story of “physically present”. The Globe and Mail now reports that the BCCOS is alleging the individuals were stepping between the officers and the bears.
Bryce Casavant, a former BCCOS officer who made international headlines in 2015 when he exercised his discretion not to kill two bear cubs, states, “This changing and morphing narrative on the part of the BC Conservation Officer service is very distressing.”
Mr. Casavant adds, “The parties are being publicly accused by the BCCOS as if they are guilty. Their presumption of innocence until proven otherwise is being trampled on by a highly motivated and goal orientated law enforcement service that has no independent oversight.”
The situation is exasperated due to the fact there is a video of the encounter located on the phone of one of the parties. Mr. Casavant says he has spoken to two of the parties arrested and “The BCCOS appears to have called the Coquitlam RCMP, who attended and then arrested at least two of the individuals.” He continues, “The RCMP were responsible for the subsequent seizures of personal phones of the individuals arrested.”
The phones were then given to the BCCOS by the RCMP. Mr. Casavant says there are serious concerns regarding the continuity and transferring of seized property from the police to a provincial agency that is not a policing service. He states, “These phones need to be immediately returned. I’m sure all parties will consent to the sharing of the video and as such there is no need for continued detention of the items.”
Mr. Casavant is doubtful that there was any form of obstruction and questions the BCCOS authority to conduct the apparent criminal investigation they allege occurred. He states, “The RCMP should never have handed over these phones in such a cavalier manner. The BCCOS needs to immediately and without delay return the private property that was taken from these people. It is unlikely the BCCOS should even have the phones as they were obtained from the police without any form of judicial authorization.”
The Coquitlam RCMP have confirmed there is no police investigation in relation to the matter and that any subsequent actions are solely the initiative of the BCCOS and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.