Police Act review opportunity to address BCCOS concerns

A black bear in British Columbia. Photo by Ivan Sabo / Getty Images

Wildlife is impacted by the Police Act, and you have an opportunity to share your views with legislators!

The Police Act is currently being reviewed by a committee in the B.C. legislature with a focus on reforms to address social issues such as mental health, addictions and harm reduction, systemic racism within BC’s police agencies and more.

This is also an opportunity to address concerns with one of the province’s essential services – the BC Conservation Officer Service. While the BCCOS is managed within the Ministry of Environment, the officers are appointed under the Police Act to carry out various duties.

The Fur-Bearers believes a properly funded BCCOS with independent, third-party oversight is an integral part of protecting wildlife and wild places in British Columbia. However, there currently is no independent oversight – meaning complaints about the BCCOS, its officers or their conduct are investigated internally, and when wildlife is killed in communities, the reviews are conducted internally. Recent media coverage has shown the alarming level of wildlife killed by officers: 4,341 black bears, 162 grizzly bears and 780 cougars (over eight years to 2019). Many of these killings were by service weapons in the field.

We are drafting our own letter to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act and encourage all B.C. residents to, as well. Please research the other important elements the committee is pursuing as well and include your thoughts on those.

Points to include in your letter:

  • Conservation officers are armed law enforcement officers under the Police Act but do not have independent oversight or the regulations of other policing agencies in the province.
  • Complaints about officers or officer conduct are reviewed internally by the BCCOS.
  • Several thousands of native wildlife have been killed by the BCCOS in recent years, often with service weapons discharged in communities.
  • The Legislature should work with the Ministry of Environment to add or amend appropriate statutes to bring the BCCOS in line with other law enforcement agencies.

It is important that these communications are well thought out, respectful and speak to specific changes.

This process is open to British Columbians. Written, audio or video submissions will be accepted until by Friday, April 30. Following the submission deadline, interested individuals and organizations may be invited to present to the Committee. All hearings will be conducted by video/teleconference.

You can send your message to PoliceActReform@leg.bc.ca.

You can learn more about the Special Committee at https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/committees/41stParliament-5thSession-rpa.

You can learn more about the consultation process here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/media-releases/80

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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