Wildlife Enforcement Directorate: 2013 to 2014 annual summary
Table of Contents
Message from the Director General
Wildlife crime took on an increasingly high profile around the world in 2013-2014. Canada, with its abundant natural resources, is not immune to threats from poaching and trafficking of wildlife nor from the illegal destruction of habitats.
Environment Canada has taken on a leadership role in fighting wildlife crime. Inside our borders, we are increasing our intelligence capacity and are training our wildlife officers in advanced investigative techniques. On the international scene, we have
increased multilateral engagement to better support enforcement operations in Canada and abroad.
The increase in prices for iconic wildlife is leading to the very real decimation of some species, particularly in Africa. In Canada, there are several protected species whose black market values are high and have risen significantly over the last five years. The value of wildlife products often exceeds the street price of illicit drugs in Canada, thereby creating incentives for criminals to engage in wildlife trafficking. It is important that governments at all levels and communities work closely together to protect wildlife -- which has social, economic and cultural value for all of us -- to ensure its continued sustainability in Canada.
In these pages, I am proud to present some of the accomplishments of our nearly 125 staff working right across Canada who work to protect our natural resources.
Wildlife Enforcement Directorate
To be a highly regarded law enforcement agency, respected for its effectiveness in the protection of wildlife and their habitat in Canada and for its contribution on the world stage.
To protect, respect and conserve wildlife and their habitat through effective enforcement of federal wildlife legislation.
Our Guiding Principles
- Achieving maximum deterrence by preventing and stopping crime, and prosecuting offenders
- Demonstrating leadership and vigilance locally, nationally and globally
- Engaging our partners to ensure our common goals are realized
- Engaging our staff at all levels to develop a national program and recognize the importance of individual contributions to this effort
The Enforcement Branch plays a primary role in the protection of our environment. The effective enforcement of wildlife and environmental protection laws is one of the concrete steps that the Government of Canada has taken to respect its commitment to the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat.
Wildlife officers ensure that businesses and individuals comply with the laws and regulations administered by Environment Canada that protect the natural environment and its biodiversity. Officers work across the country to collect information, conduct inspections and investigate alleged violations to ensure that poachers, polluters and criminals who smuggle wild animals are brought to justice.
To accomplish this, the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate is responsible for the enforcement of the following acts and their regulations:
- Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA);
- Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA);
- Species at Risk Act (SARA);
- Canada Wildlife Act (CWA);
- In co-operation with Environmental Enforcement Directorate officers, the provisions of the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act concerning wildlife.
Enforcement Branch, through the Environmental Enforcement Directorate, also enforces the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the provisions of the Fisheries Act concerning pollution prevention. Also, under the agreements entered into with other organizations, wildlife officers have the authority to enforce other provincial, territorial or federal laws.
In addition, Canada cooperates with other nations and partners, such as INTERPOL and police agencies, in exercising global efforts over the illegal trade of species threatened with extinction, helping prevent offenders from escaping justice by simply crossing a border.
2013-2014 Priorities of the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate
The Wildlife Enforcement Directorate (WED) has adopted the following three priorities that will focus our activities:
- Canadian species at high risk for conservation and/or at high risk for non-compliance. The Government of Canada is determined to conserve wildlife for future generations.
- Foreign species at high risk for conservation and/or at high risk for non-compliance. Canada is strongly committed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). WED officers conduct targeted operations at various points of entry in the country in order to actively address the illegal trade of species, such as rhinoceros horn and ivory from elephants, for which black market prices continue to increase.
- Habitats or protected areas at high risk for conservation and/or at high risk for noncompliance. WED officers patrol national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries to ensure compliance with SARA, the CWA and the MBCA. The protection of these habitats, which includes some critical habitat identified in SARA recovery strategies, is critical, given the fact that these habitats are deemed necessary for the conservation and/or recovery of key species.
Statistics Concerning Penalties Imposed in 2013-2014
2013-2014 saw the highest value of penalties imposed by courts for offences against federal wildlife laws.
|Total amount of fines||$630,278Footnote1|
|Prison time for offenders (days)||692|
|Hunting bans (years)||36|
|Convictions in criminal court||65|
One of the largest convictions for a federal wildlife offence for smuggling came to resolution in 2013-2014: the case involving the trafficking of narwhal tusks resulted in a fine of $385,000, an incarceration and court orders.
Training of Our Wildlife Enforcement Officers
Incidental Take: Joint Training Between the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate
Incidental take, the inadvertent but illegal destruction of migratory birds and nests in the course of legal activities such as construction and brush clearing, is an issue that generates a significant number of enforcement files every year. Over the course of 2013-2014, WED worked with the Canadian Wildlife Service to develop a risk-based process for responding to complaints of incidental take of migratory birds, their nests and eggs that takes into account conservation concerns and compliance risk. WED staff received training on responding to complaints and determining which course of action to undertake, for example providing compliance information, investigating or prosecuting. This will help ensure that departmental goals are met by focusing enforcement actions on deliberate non-compliance as well as on vulnerable species.
Wildlife Enforcement Standardized Training
Learning and Development Division (Enforcement Services Directorate of Environment Canada) delivered Wildlife Enforcement Standardized Training in late 2013. This intensive training program is comprised of 2 weeks of online prerequisite training, plus a 6-week in-class session, designed to allow new recruits to achieve the designation standards of wildlife officers. Other employees joined this group in order to develop their knowledge of some of the laws administered by our department. As a result of the training, 21 people have new skills to apply to their positions, either as officers or program experts.
Training investments in our officers are ongoing, with numerous officers from across the country taking part in various training initiatives, such as forensic interviewing, Small Vessel Operator Proficiency, helicopter ditching, snowmobile and ice safety and rescue, court briefs, forensic photography, and Bird Wing Identification. In addition, officers regularly recertify on self-defensive tactics and enforcement equipment, as required in order to maintain their peace officer designations.
Response and Emergency Measures
Floods in Southern Alberta
In late June 2013, a series of massive rainstorms hit southern Alberta. Over the course of two weeks, flooding affected hundreds of thousands of people. Enforcement Branch was asked by civil authorities to provide for assistance, in particular rescuing stranded individuals in the town of High River, Alberta. Wildlife officers and boats were deployed from Calgary to assist with the rescue efforts, in particular supporting the transportation needs in the disaster area.
Railway Accident at Lac-Mégantic
In July 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, destroying the town’s downtown core and killing more than 40 people. That incident also created serious environmental impacts. More than 70 people from Environment Canada played a significant role in organization and support measures, including environmental emergency response, producing atmospheric pollutant dispersion models, monitoring of migratory birds, contamination assessment, incident management, sampling of tank cars and enforcement measures. At the end of the year, the event was still under investigation under the MBCA and the Fisheries Act, as well as other federal and provincial laws.
Appointments Within INTERPOL
It is often said that crime knows no boundaries. INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, is an important network in the fight against international crime. Canada is a trading nation with strong commercial ties and personal links with the rest of the world. While most international travellers and commercial movements are legitimate and lawful, a percentage of people will try to get around controls and break the law. Environment Canada's Enforcement Branch has supported INTERPOL for many years. In November 2013, Canada's involvement in this organization has gained profile: Gord Owen, Environment Canada's Chief Enforcement Officer, was named as a delegate to the executive-level advisory board of the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee, while Sheldon Jordan, Director General of Environment Canada's WED, was named as the chair of INTERPOL's Wildlife Crime Working Group.
"Canada is a country of great abundance. Our vast territory comes with a responsibility of stewardship for the protection of these precious resources,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “The selection of Gord Owen and Sheldon Jordan for their respective roles is indicative that Environment Canada’s Enforcement Branch is distinguished by our international peers. This is a proud moment for Canada.”
Moreover, the Headquarters Intelligence Division continues to assign one person part-time in the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Ottawa on behalf of the Enforcement Branch. As a result of the NCB liaison program, WED is receiving more communications from the INTERPOL Environmental Security Sub-Directorate and from other member countries, which strengthens our partnerships, increases exchange of information and allows WED to enhance its detection and interdiction of illegal trade.
Conservation of Polar Bears: Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Agreement
Kathy Graham, Executive Director, WED Headquarters, joined the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, for 40th anniversary celebration of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, held in Russia in December 2013.
During the meeting in Moscow, five of the seven Polar Bear Range States (Canada, United States, Norway, Russia and Denmark) renewed their commitment to the conservation and management of the polar bear. The 2013 Declaration celebrates successful cooperation achieved over the last 40 years, recognizes the need for engagement with local communities in the North, and highlights important emerging issues impacting the species, such as climate change and illegal trade for which it acknowledges that enforcement is critical to successful conservation efforts in combatting illegal activities.
During one of her speeches, Minister Aglukkaq emphasized Canada's ongoing engagement to take concrete action to protect and conserve the Arctic's environment and unique wildlife. She reiterated Canada's long-term commitment to working with its partners to enforce the laws and to invest the time and energy required to develop innovative monitoring solutions.
The London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade
On February 13, 2014, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird represented Canada at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. The conference was attended by heads of state and senior officials from 41 other countries, who committed to providing the political leadership and practical support needed to take essential actions to tackle illegal wildlife trade and to further assess and report on the markets and dynamics of illegal wildlife trade in their respective countries. Minister Baird announced a commitment to contribute C$2 million in emergency funding to combat international wildlife trafficking in Eastern Africa.
“Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues just to fill the pockets of criminals,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Source: INTERPOL, June 24, 2014
Operation Nanook - Partnerships with Canada’s Military
Operation Nanook is Canada's premier sovereignty operation in the North, held every year since 2007. It is an annual scenario-driven exercise to showcase capacity to respond to emergencies in the Northern region. In August 2013, WED led a poaching scenario (falcon eggs) on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut. This was the first time that Environment Canada participated in Operation Nanook. It was an excellent test of Environment Canada's capacity and readiness to exercise its enforcement mandate in the North. Environment Canada wildlife officers were able to successfully collaborate, work and train alongside the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Department's participation in Operation Nanook 2013 stems from efforts over the past year to develop and launch a Northern Environmental Enforcement Strategy (NEES). The NEES is an ongoing initiative to demonstrate a concrete commitment to responsible resource development and ensure environmental sustainability by ensuring efficient and effective enforcement operations activities in the North.
In 2013-2014, several major projects were launched to help WED optimize the management of its resources in order to be better positioned to intervene in a proactive manner. The emphasis on this orientation was again demonstrated by carrying out the following projects.
Intelligence Renewal Project
Intelligence collection and analysis have long been used within WED to help advance inspections and investigations at WED. However, with WED's increasingly broad mandate, increasing pressures on resources, and changes to the way wildlife and conservation crime happens, intelligence has become even more central to the way we do business. Intelligence allows us to make risk-based decisions by providing a more comprehensive understanding of wildlife and conservation crime. By targeting the worst offenders, it helps ensure that our efforts are focused and effective. As Enforcement Branch evolves into a harm-focused, intelligence-led enforcement organization, our intelligence program is facing increasing demands.
The Intelligence Renewal Project was launched in the fall of 2013 and will continue into 2014-2015 across Enforcement Branch to enhance intelligence capacity and implement an intelligence-driven approach to enforcement. The project aims to achieve this by strengthening five key elements of our intelligence program:
- People: developing training and recruiting strategy
- Craft: improving intelligence products and processes
- Alignment: formalizing how intelligence and operations work together and feeding intelligence into the planning process
- Technology: modernizing technology and managing information
- Structure: strengthening partnerships, developing performance measures and assessing the organizational structure
These changes are already having a positive impact across the Branch. Not only are Intelligence staff becoming better equipped with the tools, technology and direction needed to produce actionable Intelligence, but Operations staff will also be better informed on what types of support they can request from Intelligence and how they can contribute to the production of intelligence. A stronger Intelligence program means better targeting of enforcement actions, increased ability to identify the most serious offenders, and more advanced analytical capacityto guide planning.
Canadian Police Information Centre
The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) is a major investigational tool that officers can access to support investigations. CPIC terminals, situated at several locations across the country, were used by a limited number of officers authorized to use the system. In 2013, WED Operational Support Division played a significant role in the transition to a more user-friendly and accessible system; the CPIC Web is now accessible to more than 250 Enforcement Branch officers directly on their computer desktops.
In enforcing the law, wildlife officers must deal with seized, abandoned and forfeited live animals or plants that in most cases are listed as endangered species. Officers arrange for these live specimens to be placed in specialized facilities that can provide adequate care and ensure security to the public. Environment Canada has over 200 animals that are being cared for at over 30 different facilities in Canada and the United States. This includes a wide variety of species, from crocodiles and rare amphibians to exotic birds and even an elephant!
Most of these facilities are open to the public and provide opportunities to increase awareness as well as enhance understanding of wildlife. However, ongoing ownership of these animals by Environment Canada may not be the most effective way to ensure conservation goals. WED is now developing alternative arrangements -- from loans to gifting -- to ensure that these animals are in the care of those best suited for the long term.
The work of an enforcement officer requires a wide range of information that must be reliable and easily accessible. To properly support this reality, management initiated the development of a portal, created using the "SharePoint - ECollab" system. This collaborative and sharing platform will combine a wide range of tools and reference materials under a single link, thus facilitating the work of officers. The objective achieved by this new portal is not only to ensure that the information on it is consistent, up to date and easily accessible, but it will also seek to create a one-stop-shop for information to provide better communication within the organization. The launch of the national WED portal is scheduled for 2015-16.
"New UN and INTERPOL study finds environmental crime worth up to USD213 billion each year.”
Birds Found in Traveller’s Luggage - Vancouver, British Columbia
In August 2013, a Canada Border Services Agency detector-dog handler at Vancouver International Airport was working a China Airlines flight when her dog indicated on a passenger's carry-on luggage. The passenger had made a "nil" declaration in response to the question about meat, animal products or plant products.
The passenger was referred for a secondary inspection, and during the course of the exam a wooden box with three live birds was found in her carry-on. When asked why she had not declared the birds, she said because no one had asked her.
The birds were Garrulax canorus, also known as the melodious laughingthrush, a CITES Appendix II species. Appendix II includes species that are not currently considered threatened with extinction but could become so if their trade is not strictly regulated. This appendix also includes species that are listed because they are similar in appearance to other listed species.
The passenger was fined for three counts under WAPPRIITA for a total fine of $690.
Importation of Thousands of Packages Containing Aloe Ferox Derivative Without CITES Permits - Across Canada
In the summer of 2013, over the course of four months, Environment Canada detained over 10,000 individual importations of consumer products containing Aloe ferox, a protected plant, none of which had U.S. CITES permits. Each shipment imported must be accompanied by a valid CITES export permit from the foreign management authority to legalize the trade.
Aloe ferox is one of several sought-after aloe species used in medical and cosmetic products.It is listed on the plant list of endangered plants (CITES - Appendix II) to ensure sustainable use of these species in trade. The products were ordered through an online advertisement generated by a U.S. company. All of the importers received a written warning, and the items were forfeited to the Crown.
Such influxes involving high volumes of non-compliant shipments are acted upon promptly to prevent similar occurrences and minimize import infractions against unsuspecting Canadian shoppers. It also sends a strong message that this country is not a market for the unlawful commercial trade of any regulated species. Environment Canada works closely with foreign counterparts and partners to ensure that non-conforming companies are investigated and notified of their legal obligations so that their unlawful business practices are stopped.
Operation Bruin - Alberta, Yukon and British Columbia
An Alberta man was convicted on October 16, 2013, on two counts for illegally possessing and importing an Alaskan brown bear into Canada. He was sentenced to pay $15,000 for violating WAPPRIITA. The Environmental Damages Fund received $13,500 of the $15,000. The violator is also prohibited for a period of two years from importing wildlife into Canada and travelling outside of Alberta for the purposes of hunting. He was ordered by the Court to forfeit the hide and skull seized during the investigation.
This resolution is one element of Operation Bruin, an extensive three-year, multiagency international investigation into the illegal hunting of Alaskan wildlife. Environment Canada, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and Alberta Fish and Wildlife worked together after Alaskan authorities determined that several Alberta hunters were illegally killing brown bears, a CITES-protected species, and importing them into Canada. The investigation revealed that, in addition to the brown bears, a number of mountain goats and black bears were also allegedly illegally harvested and imported into Canada, and the investigation evolved to include offences in the Yukon and British Columbia as well.
Investigators in Canada seized the mounts of seven brown bears, five mountain goats, two black bears, four ducks and three wolverines during the investigation. Import and export of all species of bear are controlled by CITES.
To date, 15 residents of Alberta, two of British Columbia and one of Yukon have been charged by Environment Canada for alleged contraventions of WAPPRIITA. Two so far have been convicted as a result of Operation Bruin.
Live Reptile Smuggling - Ontario
A Cobden, Ontario, man received two 90-day jail sentence terms to be served consecutively and was ordered to pay $50,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund after pleading guilty to two counts under WAPPRIITA and one count under the Customs Act. The court also sentenced him to three years' probation.
A joint operation by Environment Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and United States Customs and Border Protection intercepted the individual in August 2010, while he was in possession of 3 boxes containing 205 reptiles smuggled into Canada across the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, on a vessel originating from the United States. This case is important because of the number of endangered animals seized, their value, the method by which they were smuggled and the organized trafficking network. The seized reptiles had an estimated retail value of $50,000. Of the 10 species seized, 9 are listed as controlled species under CITES.
Illegal Importation of Live Animals - Quebec
In November 2013, the owner of a Montréal company pleaded guilty to one count of illegal possession of illegally imported live animals. The judge ordered a $10,000 fine plus an additional $5,000 fine for illegal profits. The owner was importing live animals, such as reptiles and fish, for trade purposes. The reptiles were initially imported by the individual convicted in the previous case.
Live Reptile Smuggling - Ontario
A Cornwall-based dealer of reptiles and amphibians was convicted in February 2014 after pleading guilty to unlawfully importing animals into Ontario without the required CITES permits. He was fined $5,000 and received 6 months of house arrest for illegally importing over 50 CITES-listed animals, primarily tortoises that are common in the pet trade, such as Red-footed, Greeks, Hermann's, Leopard and Sulcatas. The individual advertised and sold the live reptiles and amphibians to businesses and individuals mainly in Ontario through various Internet classified sites.
Also as a result of the evidence obtained during the multi-year Ontario investigation, another reptile dealer from Montréal was convicted after pleading guilty to one count under WAPPRIITA. He was fined $40,000 and sentenced to three years' probation.
Parrot Feather Smuggling - Quebec
On September 3, 2013, a resident of L'Anse-Saint-Jean, Quebec, pleaded guilty to the charges and was ordered to pay a fine of $9,000 for having illegally imported and exported, on several occasions, parrot feathers from species protected by CITES. These parrot feathers are listed under CITES Appendix I and II. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction, while Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with immediate extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to ensure their survival.
The conviction stems from a joint operation carried out in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the RCMP. The file began in October 2009, when the Intelligence Division of WED looked into the business activities that the offender was conducting from the eBay website. WED officers, supported by the RCMP's Integrated Technological Crime Unit, were able to conduct a search at the home of the offender. Officers seized a large quantity of illegally obtained parrot feathers and documentary evidence demonstrating that illegal movements took place, as well as extensive computer information allowing the officers to confirm the size of the network, understand the nature of the trade carried out, and identify the various modus operandi used.
During the search at the home, 14,800 contraband cigarettes were also found and handed over to the RCMP. On September 5, 2013, the individual pleaded guilty to charges that the RCMP brought against him in this case, and was ordered to pay a $2,516 fine under the Excise Act, 2001, in addition to $9,000 for the offences concerning the bird feathers.
Operation Longtooth - Atlantic Region and Prairie and Northern Region
In April 2009, WED received intelligence regarding illegal narwhal tusk smuggling. The tusks were believed to be originating from Canada, and the alleged supplier was a Canadian citizen who lived in both Alberta and New Brunswick.
After a multi-year investigation, a former police officer was charged with unlawful export of narwhal tusks to the United States under WAPPRIITA and on October 1, 2013, was convicted on 7 counts of illegal export of 250 narwhal ivory tusks. He was fined $385,000 (the largest fine ever under the WAPPRIITA). He was also ordered to serve an 8-month conditional sentence and received a court order prohibiting him from possessing or purchasing marine mammals for 10 years. In addition, he was ordered to forfeit to the Crown his vehicle, trailer and shipping supplies used to transport the tusks. This sentence sends a strong message that this type of offence will not be tolerated and that crime does not pay.
The narwhal, often referred to as "the unicorn of the sea," is recognized as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. It is also listed as a protected species under Appendix II of CITES.
On the U.S. side of the border, Operation Longtooth identified individuals who were accomplices to the Canadian. To date in the investigation, a Massachusetts man was convicted and served 33 months in prison. Three other persons from Tennessee and Washington have pleaded guilty of conspiring to illegally import and traffic narwhal tusks and conspiring to launder money. Their sentencing dates are scheduled for later in 2014. A New Jersey man was found guilty of conspiracy, money laundering and smuggling for illegally importing narwhal tusks into the U.S. He is facing fines up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
Piping Plovers - Melodus Subspecies in Atlantic Canada
The Piping Plover was designated an endangered species in Canada in 1986 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and is protected under SARA. There are only approximately 250 breeding pairs of the species in Canada. The Piping Plover is highly vulnerable to human activity, which impacts its survival, and its protection is a WED priority.
Operations took place in all four Atlantic provinces and Quebec, where wildlife enforcement officers worked with partner agencies to conduct patrols near known nesting sites.
As a result of enforcement activities by WED officers, a total of 44 warnings and 29 tickets were given, with the tickets resulting in fines of $7,229. Continued efforts are required, as there is substantial evidence of other violations (e.g., fresh all-terrain vehicle tracks near nests), more specifically during the breeding and nesting period.
Migratory Bird Enforcement - Across Canada
Canada is home to four different migratory bird flyways, with millions of birds making annual pilgrimages along these flyways paths to the north in the spring and returning south when fall arrives. Migratory bird enforcement is the responsibility of the Government of Canada, and the MBCA governs how and when birds can be legally harvested.
On the ground, enforcement of the MBCA is a shared effort between WED and the various provincial and territorial wildlife agencies across Canada. WED officers lead and assist in hundreds of inspections each year, including field checks of hunters and border blitzes to ensure that taken migratory birds are being harvested and transported legally. Canada is a tourist destination for hunters, particularly in the western provinces, where many hunters are from other countries. Conversely, food hunting is more prevalent in the Atlantic provinces.
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