In 2015, Bryce Casavant was fired after being dispatched to a mobile home park near the British Columbia town of Port Hardy, where locals had seen a female black bear rummaging through a freezer full of salmon and meat.
When Casavant arrived, he fired and killed the mother bear in accordance with the province’s policy, in which a bear has to be killed if it is seen to be reliant on human food, but the conservation officer decided not to harm the cubs, as residents told him they did not eat the food.
According to the court documents, instead of complying with the kill order, he took the cubs to a veterinarian who assessed them and transferred them to the North Island Recovery Centre. The cubs were later on released into the wild.
However, because of Casavant’s failure to follow the order to kill the cubs, his supervisor filed a complaint against him and after a day, a formal Notice of Complaint was issued alleging “the disciplinary default of neglect of duty.”
Casavant was suspended back then, pending an investigation into the allegation, before being fired shortly afterward. He spent years fighting his termination, and this week, the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.
In The Guardian, Casavant said: “I feel like the black clouds that have hung over my family for years are finally starting to part, but the moment is bittersweet – my firing should have never happened in the first place.”
“I kept fighting so that I could clear my name. I’ve long stood for public service, honor, and integrity. It’s how I was raised and how I’ve raised my daughter. I really feel that I was targeted,” he said.
Casavant added that the decision was a “vindication” of his expensive legal battle, which saw him appealing his termination at various levels of provincial courts.
Casavant has been a leading critic of the BC Conservation Officer Service’s practices since he was terminated, and he has been a vocal advocate of establishing independent oversight over the body. He also helped others who are opposing the way conservation officers in British Columbia carry out their duties, with many criticizing them for killing bears too readily.
Last January, Pacific Wild, a conservation group that works with Casavant, found more than 4,500 bears had been killed by conservation officers in the province over the last eight years, including 4,341 black bears.
Casavant wrote in the report: “(British Columbia) isn’t a shooting gallery for government employees, it’s unreasonable to believe that, including juvenile bear cubs, over 4,000 black bears were killed ‘as a last resort’.”
In the end, while the court’s judgment does not reinstate Casavant as a conservation officer, he still continues to work to improve the body’s practices.