Crown drops Species at Risk Act charges against military personnel

Pair accused of destruction, possession of endangered caribou; charge against Department of National Defence still active

A view of the remote Canadian Armed Forces base in Alert, which is near the top of Ellesmere Island. Species at Risk Act charges against two military personnel for alleged infractions related to a caribou from the Peary herd have been dropped. (File photo)

By Randi Beers

Species at Risk Act charges against two military personnel have been withdrawn after the pair completed community service and educational programming on wildlife protection. 

Maj. Benoit Carbonneau and Master Warrant Officer Yan Senechal were charged Sept. 5, 2023, for possessing antlers belonging to an endangered Peary caribou at the Canadian Armed Forces base in Alert, according to court documents.

The incident is alleged to have occurred on Sept. 10, 2021, and the Department of National Defence is also named in the charges.

Carbonneau and Senechal took part in court diversion, which was “deemed appropriate in the circumstances,” according to Crown lawyer Nathalie Houle.

“The diversion included education on wildlife protection on Indigenous land as well as community service,” she said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Nunavut’s Restorative Justice Diversion program provides a way for people charged with a crime and those affected by a crime to work together in an “effort to repair harm” caused by criminal behaviour, according to the territory’s Department of Justice.

Environment and Climate Change Canada did not divulge much information about the allegations, other than that the  incident and follow-up investigation stemmed from the “destruction and possession of the animal,” spokesperson Samuel Lafontaine said.

Carbonneau was the commanding officer of Canadian Armed Forces base Alert from July to December 2012, according to an article in Canadian Military Family Magazine.

A LinkedIn profile belonging to Yan Senechal indicates he was a sensor operator at the base.

Alert sits at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. It is the world’s most northerly, permanently inhabited location, according to the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

The Peary caribou’s range extends across the N.W.T. and Nunavut’s High Arctic islands. 

They were listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk act in 2011, but reassessed as threatened in 2023.

There are an estimated 13,200 mature Peary caribou in the wild, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada, down from an estimated 22,000 in 1987.

The charge against the Department of National Defence is still active and the next court appearance for this case is May 6, Houle said.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Flabbergasted on

    once again we see the courts of canada siding with their own government. Investigating their own and not being punished properly. If you or I did this, they would have thrown the book at us and to be made an example of. Different Laws for Different people.

    • Posted by K on

      The animal was destroyed because it had hundreds of pounds of copper wire tangled in its antlers. Inquiries were made and elimination was recommended.

      • Posted by Actually on

        The article says that the government department responsible for the employees still has a charge against it. The individual citizens benefitted from a diversion program. So, actually the idea that the judicial branch is in cahoots with the executive branch, in addition to being untrue in Canada, appears to not be happening here.

      • Posted by TuktuHunter on

        Peary Caribou only weigh 200 pounds. How did they have “hundreds of pounds of copper” on their tiny twig antlers?

    • Posted by You Are Right on

      You’re right, we would have the book thrown at us. Unless we were privileged enough to benefit from the Gladue principle. Then we’d get a slap on the wrist at most.
      ‘One rule for me, another for thee’ is alive an well.

  2. Posted by Hudon Bay on

    Imagine if we Inuit were to harvest the beluga in Eastern Hudson Bay, they would would immediately arrest us and seize our hunting equipment on the spot.

    Two way system for the natives and non natives.

  3. Posted by Northman on

    A Major and a Master Warrent officer, couple of high ranking officers.

  4. Posted by Ron Mueller on

    You have a commanding officer and a warrant officer being charged along with the Crown. This is Regina vs Regina. The comment or who says that there’s a cover up is removing all doubt that people should not think him a fool. People’s careers are at stake in situations such as this. There is so much more that is not being reported. These Peary Caribou are extremely remote. Much is missing here. The hunter trapper A’ssn is involved in this in some manner I think.

  5. Posted by Northerner on

    When , i read this story , i thought these guys went on a shooting spree. It over a caribou in distress. It looks like over reaction with charges and all.

  6. Posted by Ummm, No on

    An MWO is not an officer, but is a senior NCO, so you’re wrong on that count.

    A major is the beginning rank to be considered a senior officer and has five ranks six ranks above and three below in the officer ranks – very much a middling rank.

  7. Posted by SEckalook on

    As an Inuk I would do just the same as these 2 men did

  8. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    This sounds like it was a humane kill as the caribou had copper wire entangled around its antlers. This would greatly impede the animal. Anyone can kill an animal which is suffering but it must be reported to a conservation officer hopefully before they put it down ( and get permission by the CO) . Sometimes that is not always possible and one must act right away before the animal wanders off but still must be reported to a CO. They possibly could have kept the antlers with the proper certification permit, or the Department could choose to keep the antlers for educational purposes. That is up to the Environment GN Department.

    • Posted by Tang on

      First, story said nothing about caribou shot b/c of copper wires entangled in antlers. Only the “Comments” section revealed this.

      Second, the caribou was killed b/c of money, and money is tied to politics. Without me explaining much, the poor Peary caribou was shot b/c of Canadian democracy.

      The stupid Dep of Defence neglected, if not refused, (a) to build a fence around their copper wire; (b) to raise the wire high above caribou antlers; or (c) bury the wire below caribou digging. (A), (b), or (c) would have avoided caribou entanglement and thus later shooting.

      The department will plead or would have pled poverty, insisting that they don’t have enough money to do (a) or (b) or (c). But such an economic argument is both controversial and despicable. Find money, damn them.

  9. Posted by Albert Head on

    What’s not reported (because it is not made public) is that the two military personnel would have been subjected to internal disciplinary procedures with profound impact on their careers. At the very least they would have been placed on “administrative procedures” which are enduring records on their files. Usually lasting for six months, the process means that they can’t be promoted or go on a career course during that time. There may even be internal charges laid. A charge under Secrion 129 of the National Defence Act, “Conduct Prejudice to Good Order and Discipline” is most common in these situations. It can come with an hefty fine, career implications, and even jail time. Either way, their careers are pretty much done. Neither of them will go any higher in rank and will get crappy postings from here on. As they should.

  10. Posted by Joe on

    How about cutting the antlers off? They are shed and then grow back in the autumn.

  11. Posted by Robert on

    So did they save the animal or slaughter it. If they slaughtered it there should be zero tolerance for killing a threatened and endangered animal. Stop with the pathetic excuse for discipline. This is one if the reasons this continues.

  12. Posted by Tulugaq on

    This type of restorative justice approach called alternative measures are quite common in this type of offences either for individuals as well as for corporations that are charged under federal regulatory legislation. Depending on the facts of the case, not using such an approach would have been a diversion from the usual practice as they are regulatory offences, not criminal offences.

    It’s sad again to see conspiracy theorists climbing on their high horses while this is normal procedure for anyone that accepts responsibility for the offence and is willing to participate in a restorative process. It’s been demonstrated years after years that such an approach is more effective than the punitive approach and that the risks of recidivism are reduced by 50%.

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