Bryce Casavant

Conservation officer suspended for not killing cubs reassigned

A Conservation Officer suspended on North Vancouver Island after refusing to destroy a pair of bear cubs is back at work

A Conservation Officer suspended on North Vancouver Island after refusing to destroy a pair of bear cubs is back at work.

Apparently he’s not happy about it.

Bryce Casavant of Port McNeill, suspended by the Conservation Officer Service (COS) in July, has been transferred to a position with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, where he began work Friday.

The BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU), which filed a grievance following his suspension, is filing a second grievance in the wake of what it calls his “disciplinary transfer” from the COS.

“He did not ask for the transfer,” said Stephanie Smith, communications director with BCGEU.

“We believe the transfer is disciplinary because it’s taking him away from his chosen career path.”

Shane Edwardson, spokesperson for the provincial government’s Public Service Agency, said employer-employee confidentiality prevented him from discussing details of the case.

But he disagreed with the union’s view.

“What I can say is that no employee in this case has been subject to disciplinary action,” said Edwardson.

“The Public Service Agency conducted a review, separate and distinct from the Conservation Officer Service, and the decision that resulted was to reassign the employee to another position in government service.”

Casavant will receive the same pay and benefits he was getting in his previous position, Edwardson said.

“We do value all contributions of all employees,” he said.

“We offer assistance as they make the transition to their new role.”

Casavant has declined to speak with the media since the initial BCGEU grievance was filed.

He could not be reached for comment for this story.

Casavant made international headlines in July when he opposed orders to destroy two nursing black bears after their mother was put down for raiding meat from a freezer in an enclosed porch of a Port Hardy-area home.

After he instead submitted the cubs for a rehabilitation assessment, he was suspended from the CO service without pay, a move that sparked a firestorm of protest.

Even as the BCGEU filed a grievance, supporters in the tens of thousands signed an online petition to Environment Minister Mary Polack demanding his reinstatement.

Within a week of the suspension, the Public Service Agency relented and restored his pay, but he remained on suspension until his reassignment last week.

“We were trying to achieve a settlement,” Smith said of the original grievance.

“We were surprised and disappointed to hear about the transfer, and he is disappointed. He loved his work as a conservation officer.”

Ironically, on the day Casavant was returned to active duty, his new department announced the two cubs he rescued, since named Athena and Jordan, do indeed qualify for rehabilitation and return to the wild.

Since their initial assessment at the North Island Veterinary Clinic in Port Hardy, they have been cared for at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

The decision to approve the cubs’ release as yearlings in 2016 was based in part on information from the property owner in Port Hardy “that suggests the cubs were less, or not, conditioned to human food and presence than first reported,” said Vivian Thomas, communications director with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations.

Which was essentially the decision Casavant reached in the field, leading to his current trouble.

“It’s a positive outcome for the cubs, and we’re going to continue to seek a positive outcome for our member,” Smith said.