This morning, Aug. 28, former North Island Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant was found working in the Port McNeill Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations office.
“Our union has filed a grievance over Bryce Casavant’s original suspension. We are now in the process of filing a second grievance concerning his disciplinary transfer from the Conservation Officer Service,” says BC Government and Services Employees Union (BCGEU) President Stephanie Smith.
“No employee involved in this case has been subjected to any discipline,” said Jamie Edwardson, director of communication speaking on behalf of the Public Service Agency which is responsible for management of government service employees.
“I can confirm that there was a thorough review of the situation conducted by the Public Service Agency independent of the Conservation Officer Service. The findings of that review were presented to the employee’s senior management,” Edwardson said.
“The decision that resulted was to reassign the employee to an equivalent position within government, with no impact on salary or classification,” he said.
“We value the contributions of all public service employees. If an employee is reassigned to a new position, we will offer them assistance as they make the transition to their new role. We want all employees to be successful,” he said.
The union and Casavant learned about the transfer earlier this week.“Bryce Casavant was following clear procedures when he decided to save these young bears,” said Smith, adding the union plans to take the issue to an arbitration hearing where an independent decision maker will determine if the transfer was warranted.
“We are very shocked and disappointed by the decision” Smith said, adding the BCGEU will “fight what we think is a very bad decision.”
“We find it very surprising. We obviously think that Bryce has shown by example how well suited he is for a position as a conservation officer and we’re surprised that the employer decided to transfer him out of that role.”
Smith said the union is hoping to get the matter to arbitration quickly, however “we are still open to reaching a settlement with the employer trying to find a settlement agreement that works for both parties,” something she says they have been trying to do from the start.
“Casavant should not have been suspended, and he should not be transferred from his job as a Conservation Officer,” says Smith, adding Casavant has a distinguished record of public service in law enforcement and she feels he did the right thing when he decided these young bears should be assessed for rehabilitation.
“The BCGEU has worked in good faith to negotiate a reasonable settlement that was satisfactory to Bryce Casavant and the Conservation Officer Service. We are surprised and disappointed by this punishment that removes him from his career. Our union remains committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement,” says Smith.
“We believe Bryce Casavant was working to the highest ideals of the Conservation Officer Service whose motto is Integrity, Service and Protection.”
The BCGEU will schedule an arbitration hearing as soon as possible.Casvant’s transfer is the direct result of what Casavant’s employer, the Ministry of Environment, calls “insubordination” stemming from Casavant’s decision to disobey a direct order by his superior officer to kill two healthy, nursing baby bear cubs in Port Hardy July 3.
Casavant maintains he was simply following the Ministry of Environment’s
“Bear Conflict Matrix” policy in dealing with cubs Jordan and Athena who are currently thriving at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.
Recovery Centre Wildlife Founder and Manager Robin Campbell, who has 30 years’ experience working with wildlife, has repeatedly confirmed Casavant’s assessment of the cubs.
“They show zero signs of habituation,” Campbell said in a previous article.According to the Ministry of Environment website, in 2000 the Orphan Bear Cub Review Committee proposed criteria for the rehabilitation and release of bear cubs in BC.
The review states: “In order to be considered as candidates for rehabilitation and release, cubs must be in good health (of adequate size with no serious injuries or obvious illnesses) and not be habituated to humans or conditioned to human food sources.”
That policy has been in place since 2001, although it is currently being reviewed.
In an email thread between Casavant and his superior officer, leaked to the media by “email@example.com” Casavant wrote to his superior “My assessment at this time based on witness statements, health of cubs, full tits on mother, teeth of cubs, and age, is that the cubs have not accessed garbage at this time. Furthermore, within the conflict matrix they have not posed a risk to public safety at this time and do not fall within the destruction category. My primary mandate is public safety and the immediate threat has been removed (i.e. the sow). My duties as a law enforcement officer do not include the needless destruction of a baby animal that can be rehabilitated.”
Casavant was suspended without pay July 6. His pay was later reinstated after a global outcry.