Kayakers charged with breaking Parks Canada, wildlife laws in Nunavut

Parks Canada alleges offences occurred in Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Sirmilik National Park

Bylot Island is seen in 2018 from Pond Inlet. Parks Canada says four kayakers are charged with various offences alleged to have taken place on the island last summer. (File photo by Norman Koonoo)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Four kayakers face dozens of charges in Nunavut under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canada National Parks Act, according to Parks Canada.

The offences are alleged to have taken place last summer at Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Sirmilik National Park, Parks Canada spokesperson Megan Hope said in an email Tuesday.

Both areas are on the remote Bylot Island, north of Pond Inlet.

Hope confirmed Mark Agnew, Edward Hansen, Eileen Visser and Jeffrey Wueste are the four people who were charged.

The kayakers are due to appear in court in Iqaluit Jan. 8.

“On Aug. 25, Parks Canada law enforcement assisted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested, interviewed and released a group of sea kayakers in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut,” Hope said in her email.

“Charges have now been laid with Nunavut Courts against four individuals for various offences.”

The charges fall under the Canada National Parks Act, migratory bird sanctuary regulations, and national parks wildlife, camping and general regulations.

Among the charges filed are possessing a firearm in a park, disturbing wildlife in a park, unlawfully entering a park without registering, unlawfully entering a restricted area in a park, camping on public land in a park, and possession of a firearm in a migratory bird sanctuary.

Each of the kayakers face 45 charges, according to the Nunavut Court of Justice docket. Convictions under the sections of the CNPA and MBCA the four are charged with are punishable by fines.

Hope declined to provide further details on the accused.

However, some of the accused kayakers appear to be members of the Arctic Cowboys, a U.S.-based explorer group that paddled the Northwest Passage last year.

According to the group’s social media pages and website, the kayakers started their journey from Baffin Bay in July and reached the Beaufort Sea in October.

A post on the Arctic Cowboys website indicates the group spent a few days in Cambridge Bay at the end of August.

Nunatsiaq News attempted to contact West Hansen, listed in a news release as the Arctic Cowboys’ expedition leader, for comment but received no response.

“Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead before visiting a national park in Canada and should be aware of relevant rules and laws before entering one of these sites,” Hope said in her email.





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(56) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    Anyone going anywhere on the land in nunavut should have a firearm, doesnt matter if it’s a national park or not and doesnt matter if ur a inuk or not. The fact that they were arrested for this is a national embarrassment. Shame on RCMP.

    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      Shame on anyone who would say that the RCMP is the organization that is driving this thing in anyway. The article itself says that Parks Canada officers are the ones responsible for this and the RCMP provided some secondary assistance. We all know that RCMP don’t enforce park stuff!!! If anyone thinks this is dumb, blame Parks Canada .

    • Posted by art thompson on

      there are rules to be followed. apparently these guys did not follow any of them. like they said ‘cowboys’. american cowboys,

      • Posted by righty on

        You’re right. They could’ve easily gotten a permit but they wanted to skip some steps that are set in place to prevent things that could go wrong.

        • Posted by Alison Davis on

          They are there to prevent things that can and do go wrong, like that American who shot a bear in Jasper last year for NO reason. It was across a very wide river doing nothing but minding its own business. We cant let Americans come up and trash our land and do whatever they want, ignoring the protection of our lands (and peoples).

          • Posted by Tyler on

            Let’s think about this.

            Your argument for needing guns banned in parks is because people needlessly kill animals which may not be necessarly dangerous. Makes sense, but banning guns in parks is not a very good option.. here’s why.
            Our only defense from a bear or cougar attack is bear spray and bangers bells and a nervous yell. All are good deterants, but absolutely will not stop an attacking animal.

            Look at the back country campers and their dog who got killed by a Griz last summer in Banff. I don’t know if they had bear spray but I do know firsthand, bear spray is a annoyance for a bear but it won’t stop them.

            Instead this law should make provision for registered firearm owner to be able to apply for carrying permit in known dangerous areas of the parks. Maybe make a body cam a requirement, an extra course and highly penalize someone for shooting a non aggressive animal. But not allowing anyone to carry a firearm in the back country is ridiculous.

      • Posted by Putting this out there on

        If getting a permit is easy… then why is it needed. I might understand in some southern Parks, but in Nunavut common. if your doing a trip and need to go through a Park and the park is not your final destination then who cares. if you kill an animal while in the park well that would be against various wildlife acts, unless it was defense of life.

        To many people like to have rules that cover everywhere because they are important in a few places.

        This is a ridiculas law

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      Although I no longer travel by skidoo when I did I never carried a rifle. Never had a need for one either.

      • Posted by antoniussch on

        You have no need is irrelevant. I have never needed the flares on my sailboat or the spare tire on my car.

      • Posted by Fred on

        I’m glad to hear that. But what would you have done if you did to protect yourself. I live in the north for 22 years. Always carried a gun. Never had to use it.

    • Posted by Thierry Nolevaux on

      Don’t need ignorant yanks, who can’t follow the rules or law, with their toys up here.

    • Posted by Kris K on

      I agree. Had same conversation with Parks Canada via email recently. If I am going hiking or camping anywhere in the wild I should be able to take firearm with me.
      Pepper spray may or may not work. I don’t want to risk my family safety because of stupid laws.

      • Posted by Mary Whitley on

        Rifled do not always work in an emergency. Nor does beer spray
        Depends on the ability of the operator and the personality of the bear.

      • Posted by monty sling on

        Kris K, pepper spray will NOT work, if that is the only weapon of someone travelling in the wild, specially in Nunavut probably have a death wise (Weather alone is your worst nightmare if you’re not properly dressed). With weather warming up and wildlife in need of sustenance, it very dangerous, I.E. rabid foxes, small animal but pepper spray will not do, a pack of hungry wolves, even a wolf; pepper spray will not do, charging musk ox, spray will not feed you, should you be lost and need food. Arm Chair wardens and outdoor “experts” STFU…..Get a right advise, should you be so lucky to have northerner inhabitants to advise you for change.

    • Posted by Hunter on

      Sorry I have to disagree.

      Tourists who wish to adventure out in Nunavut’s wilderness should hirer local guides and polar bear monitors. for protection and safety.

      In Africa tourist higher guides and wildlife monitors.

      In South America no tourist is venturing into the jungle without a guides and wildlife monitors either.

      • Posted by tom on

        Hire a local guide to paddle the NW Passage? I don’t think you understand this endeavor.

        • Posted by Hunter on

          They could have recruited a young Inuk local to join their expedition, one who would be legally permitted to carry a fire arm in a National and or Territorial Park and hunt and fish.

          When I travel to another country I check the laws of the country I am going to. If I am uncertain I go though a local tourist operator as they are familiar with the countries laws or stay at a resort.

          Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and not a valid defense for breaking multiple laws.

          If we do not prosecute and set examples other tourists will not see the warnings and do similar things these people did thinking they will get away with it.

          That being said Migratory Bird Act is a three way international law between Mexico, USA and Canada. Canada must uphold their end of the Act.

  2. Posted by Tourism on

    I’m sure this will do a lot to encourage tourism in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Jean Gillespie on

      Anyone who wants to travel in Nunavut should respect the laws of Nunavut, and the laws of common decency. No need for ignorant Americans (or Canadians, for that matter) to invade such a majestic place!!

  3. Posted by Jack Sparrow on

    I just learned “Ullaaqut” does NOT mean “Good morning”. Rather it t means “TOMORROW morning”

    • Posted by Name Withheld on

      Good morning – ᐅᑉᓛᓯᐊᑦ = Uublaasiat

  4. Posted by Cuggies Rock on

    Is it kayak-ERS or qaqaqtiit?

  5. Posted by Kila on

    Very serious fines; however, as an explorer group, you should be able to expect the foresight of researching rules and regulations.

  6. Posted by Richard Claveau on

    These self-entitled individuals make the rest of us, law-abiding canoeist, look bad. To every actions there are consequences.

  7. Posted by George on

    “Among the charges filed are possessing a firearm in a park, disturbing wildlife in a park, unlawfully entering a park without registering, unlawfully entering a restricted area in a park, camping on public land in a park, and possession of a firearm in a migratory bird sanctuary.”

    Possessing a firearm in a park – most people would argue that it’s just common-sense to have some form of protection.
    Disturbing wildlife – good luck trying to prove that one!
    Restricted area? – WTF is that?
    Camping on public land? – is there any PRIVATE land in a park on which they could camp?

    All just a PR exercise and the idiots who brought these charges deserve to be fired.

    • Posted by LordAwesome on

      “Possessing a firearm in a park – most people would argue that it’s just common-sense to have some form of protection.”

      – Bear spray and a knife are also considered a form of protection and fall within the rules.

      “Disturbing wildlife – good luck trying to prove that one!”

      -Parks Canada are the masters of proving this one. They have laid these charges in the past and have been successful. Depending on where they where their mere presence could be classified as “disturbing wildlife”.

      “Restricted area? – WTF is that?”

      A restricted area is an area you are not allowed in. Such as wildlife & estuary protection areas. I believe the American translation is: “Private Property Trespassers will be shot” areas.

      “Camping on public land? – is there any PRIVATE land in a park on which they could camp?”

      -Probably not. Not all parks are campable.

      “All just a PR exercise and the idiots who brought these charges deserve to be fired.”

      -No, these are not PR exercises these are areas that need to be protected and protecting them is what parks Canada is doing.

      I suggest you stay out of Yellowstone as well, your view on parks will not bode well their either.

      • Posted by 867 on

        Comparing simirlik to Yellowstone is like apples to oranges. Yellowstone gets millions of tourists annually and simirlik no more than a few dozen. Ask any inuk and they will say southerners are nuts for going there without a firearm. Same with pang pass. If you really think a knife will save you against a hungry polar bear, I got some news for you.

        • Posted by Vicky on

          Did you just skip “bear spray?”

          No one compared Yellowstone to the park in the article you are just confused dude. It was a figure of speech. You really should read things a few times before you respond next time….

        • Posted by Sar Castic on

          Yeah that’s exactly what we want. Thousands of kayakers armed with rifles and killing any polar bear they deem a threat.

        • Posted by Fishergirl on

          There are many places that people can go that are not restricted. They did not have to go there but chose to break Canadian laws and now will have to pay big fines.
          There are reasons why an area has restrictions. Did they kill birds that were in a SANCTUARY?
          Americans should know that Canada has a lot more gun restrictions and should know all about them before bringing them north.
          I hope that the fines keep the American cowboys away.

          • Posted by Jean Gillespie on

            Well said!! If you don’t agree with our laws, go elsewhere!!

    • Posted by G. Cameron on

      That comment is rooted in ignorance.

    • Posted by Vicky on

      Possessing firearm – get your permits then…. There are legally acceptable forms of protection
      Disturbing wildlife – not hard to prove if they were trying to shoot said wildlife or were traipsing through their nesting ground etc. and were seen…. (Pure speculation on my part but sounds like it had to do with some severe stupidity on the kayakers part more than PC officers in order to be charged with 45 offences this wasn’t unopened liquor in a park)
      Camping on public land – legal camping options exist so use them and pay like smart people do
      Honestly you sound like you are the next person we will read about since you seem to be so incapable of finding ways to NOT break the law. Also I’m guessing you’re not a lawyer because you’d lose every case if these are real examples of your arguments against these charges.

      • Posted by 867 on

        Firearms are banned in all Canadian national parks, doesnt matter if you have a permit. And bear spray won’t do much against a 3 meter tall polar bear.

  8. Posted by Larry Simpson on

    I think charging them only makes sense if they actually shot something, like geese or caribou or whatever.

  9. Posted by NUNOFIT on

    It’s weird how there’s some in here defending the flaunting of our sovereignty by foreigners.

    American bootlickers.

  10. Posted by Lucretius on

    From grounded cruise ships to sunk pick up trucks and now ignorant paddlers, it seems our bright new, vaunted Green Economy is wilting.

    Sirmilik Parks gets between 500-1000 visitors a year, and as such, is one of the most popular parks in all of Nunavut. The majority of visitors are cruise ship passengers on a day stop.

    In order to support this tourism (and watch nature take its course whether this place was a park or not), there is an 8 member planning team that is paid with public funds.

    And, a 15 member Inuit Knowledge Working Group that is paid with public funds.

    And, a 5-8 member joint Inuit/Government Park Planning team that is paid by public funds.

    Plus, Park infrastructure to pay for and maintain.

    And, most significantly, 23 full time and part time Government of Canada Parks staff.

    All this to support a handful of seasonal guiding and outfitting jobs, held mainly by non-Nunavut or even foreign cruise ship staff.

    Now surely these court cases in the story will cost several hundred thousands to prosecute – to punish crimes that are things that could have done quite legally if this place was not a Park (arming against bears and camping on the coast).

    Easily, this whole effort could cost taxpayers several millions per year, or generously, around $2,000 per tourist per year.

    This is around what it would take for our same taxpayers to pay to build a couple of new housing units for Pond Inlet each and every year.

    If we want an economically viable alternative to industrial development that meets people’s needs, we are going to have to do way, way better than this.

    • Posted by Beth on

      Parks mandates have to do with more than just tourists. All parks have mandates about ecological stewardship. Many of them also have mandates about tourists. Reducing everything to economics is so sad, not all that is valuable is about money.

      And, saving money by not providing these jobs doesn’t mean that money will be funnelled to housing, that’s never how these things work.

      Housing supply is insufficient, and developers are building unaffordable housing in response. If you want to advocate for housing, think about what you want your approach to be.

  11. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Good luck getting back US citizens to face the charges in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Pangmiut on

      That’s ok. A Canada Wide warrant will be issued for them and every time they want to come back to the country they’ll be flagged and or arrested.

      If anything prevent these “cowboys” from coming back who don’t seem to have respect for our laws.

  12. Posted by WellDone on

    You break the rules you pay the price. Thumbs up to Parks Canada. As far as cost to the tax payers, the accused individuals will pay those costs if found guilty. Do you actually think if you are charged with similar infractions in the USA they would be overlooked…not likely.

  13. Posted by Mitch Holder on

    When can I meet up with you to resurrect the dead birds they killed? Maybe we can save some seals at the same time…and bud, I am writing from the Yukon, not Toronto. Your laws are stupid.

  14. Posted by Mitch Holder on

    I do, I categorically blame Parks Canada, bunch of leftist yuppy liabilities. From Ontario and Quebec. Prove me wrong.

    • Posted by Jean Gillespie on

      Parks Canada is doing the job they are paid to do, and that is to protect the parks and all of the wildlife within. I salute them!

  15. Posted by Why? on

    Who ever came up with these stupid charges idea should be fired , national embarrassment.

  16. Posted by Matt on the ground on

    45 charges each seem excessive in order to just make a point.
    sounds like parks trying to flex some regulatory muscle and justify the weighty staffing contingent

  17. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    Let’s not forget all the ignorant Canadians who do the the same. Your comment is actually pretty stupid.

    • Posted by John WP Murphy on

      In response to the Thierry Nolevaux comment above.

  18. Posted by Mike Coleman on

    This is not the first they kayak in another part of the world, everybody knows there are rules to follow. If you don’t like them, then don’t kayak there, plain and simple. They most likely wanted to be the first to travel the northwest passage, and did not care about following the local laws.

  19. Posted by Jake on

    It’s always better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. If I was going anywhere in the gods country of Canada for a camping trip etc… I would have a firearm on me at all times, and that is legal to do here in Canada. It’s just not worth not having it.

  20. Posted by 867 on

    All Firearms are Illegal in national parks because of some laws written by parks staff in Ontario and quebec who have no knowledge of the north

  21. Posted by Pete foster on

    First off,packing a firearm on a wilderness trip is only common sense.
    2 people and their dog were mauled to death this fall in Alberta,and their bear spray proved to be as useful as deodorant,still be breathing today if they had a gun.
    One thing I do know is that Ottawa,guns,and common sense are never used in the same sentence.
    And considering the remoteness of the site is it possible they simply wandered unknowingly into that area.
    And how much carnage to the local wildlife can 4 people in kayaks actually commit on the local wildlife? Seriously!
    Sounds like a complete,and utter,lack of common sense.shown here,both by the kayakers,and parks Canada!

  22. Posted by G-man Choi on

    45 charges laid and 2 of them are Americans and 1 European LOL Good luck getting those fines back (insert eyeroll here) So Parks is going to tie up the Courts for weeks with all these charges for what? They will accomplish nothing from this, other than causing the Court system aggravation and annoyance.

  23. Posted by BadDadSimeonie on

    Now The Birds are Protected and Roasting Human,Bird’s Live Matters

  24. Posted by A great chance for Season 2 on

    This would be an excellent opportunity for Season 2: Dog the Bounty Hunter NTI. In season 1, NTI went to France in search of some good weather, wine, and Rivoire. Season 2: NTI on the case to bring fugitive kayakers to justice for paddling waters that may have contained birds. Season 3 is in early production… it’s a crossover with the Land Guardians with a special guest appearance from NDP leader.

  25. Posted by monty sling on

    And you wonder why we work so hard to promote Nunavut tourism and nil results. bad medicine all around. Look at the locals/Nunavummiut; garbage all over “pristine” land. Come to Arv and see paper coffee cups almost everywhere. if locals don’t care about their settlements, why care of the vast land appears to be norm.

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