Military personnel accused of killing and possessing endangered caribou in Alert

Species at Risk Act charges stem from September 2021 incident

A view of the remote Canadian Armed Forces base in Alert, which is near the top of Ellesmere Island. Two military personnel are charged under the federal Species at Risk Act for alleged infractions related to a caribou from the Peary herd. (File photo)

By Randi Beers

Two Canadian Forces personnel face federal Species at Risk Act charges related to the destruction and possession of an endangered caribou at Canada’s northernmost military station. 

The Department of National Defence is also named in the charges, which stem from an investigation led by enforcement officers with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The incident is alleged to have occurred on Sept. 10, 2021, in Alert, said Samuel Lafontaine, spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The Department of National Defence declined to comment, saying the matter is before the courts.

Maj. Benoit Carbonneau and Master Warrant Officer Yan Senechal, as well as the Department of National Defence, are scheduled to have their first appearances Thursday at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Carbonneau was the commanding officer of Canadian Forces Base Alert from July to December 2021, according to an October 2021 article in Canadian Military Family magazine.

An airborne electronic sensor operator named Yan Senechal was stationed in Alert from May to November 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Alert sits at the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island, 817 kilometres south of the North Pole. It’s been continuously inhabited since 1950.

Peary caribou are the smallest North American caribou herd. Their range extends across N.W.T. and Nunavut’s High Arctic islands, according to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

They were listed under the Species at Risk Act as endangered in 2011 but reassessed as threatened earlier this year.

Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates there are currently 13,200 mature Peary caribou in the wild, down from an estimated 22,000 in 1987.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by Just a girl on

    Omg they hunted a caribou…
    These men Risk their lives for us every day…
    They gave up their own lives to keep us safe.
    The way Canada treats our forces is absolutely gross..
    Shame on our government.

    • Posted by Anon on

      Word is they found it injured and dying entangled in a fence and took what they thought was humane action, but the media won’t tell you that part because they’d rather paint military members in a poor light.

      • Posted by Peter Hillier on

        Fence? What fence? I did 5 tours of Alert and never saw a fence. I also knew that one had to seek permission to act in a situation like you describe. Otherwise you let nature take its course.

      • Posted by Eric on

        I would like to know where the fence was located – is this something like a snow fence??

      • Posted by Anon on

        And the part you’re leaving out is that they asked for permission , were denied, and did it anyway. They also took the antlers to make a trophy for the station. No one needs to paint them in a poor light, they did a fine job themselves.

        • Posted by Joe Fardy on

          I think it is better than letting the poor animal just rot away! It is not like they did anything negligent. Shit happens sometimes. In this case the caribou had a really bad day.

          • Posted by Anonymous on

            It literally isn’t better than “letting it rot away”; because it wouldn’t “rot away”. It would be consumed by the local wildlife.

            They absolutely did something negligent, against both orders from their chain of command, laws of the territory, and federal endangered species regulations.

            And then made a trophy to brag about it.

    • Posted by Anne on

      They did not “hunt” a caribou. I was there. It was what I would call a mercy killing – no other choice after the situation the animal put itself in. I am shocked that there would be charges, knowing what actuallty happened!! If anything,
      I would say Nasittuq, the civilian company in charge of supporting facilities, would be the responsible party for what the animal got caught it.

      • Posted by Anonymous on

        I wasn’t there but I’m aware of the background on the CAF side. The long and short of it is this: the CAF was supposed to handle this and didn’t; so now the Territory has to. Because they have to be held accountable on two issues. First: they disobeyed orders from their chain of command, and direction from Environment Canada when they carried out the “mercy killing”. No matter what in a situation like that, it should be figured out in court – if they did the right thing a judge can determine that.

        The second, and inexcusable reason, was that they harvested antlers and made a trophy. I know people will try to excuse that, but that’s a long way from mercy killing. It’s not only outside what ethical protection their mercy killing argument can provide (while still disobeying orders) – it is specifically a separate crime to take trophies from animals on the endangered species list.

        CAF members need to be held accountable for their choices in cases like this. It may be that they can argue in favor of ethical necessity – but it should happen publically in a court of law to show that the CAF and it’s members aren’t above Canada’s laws.

  2. Posted by Ron Snider on

    So the ministry is concerned about 1 caribou in a herd of 13,000 inhabiting the most uninhabital place in Canada. Perhaps our tax dollars could go to something, anything more important than a trial of 2 of our military who daily fight for our country 🤔

  3. Posted by Janice on

    I worked in the high Arctic for 7.5 years and the waste of tax dollars is unreal…yet the government goes after our military for this…..unreal..

  4. Posted by Thierry Nolevaux on

    Military or not, it’s an endangered species and it’s illegal. No excuse for ignorance or superiority complexes.

  5. Posted by Thierry Nolevaux on

    Just because they are part of our armed forces does not give them the right to kill an endangered species. It’s illegal, poor judgement and they should be prosecuted.

      • Posted by Anonymous on

        Yes, it is. It is listed as “threatened” on the endangered species list.

  6. Posted by Jc on

    It is no longer endangered. Didnt have reading as a class in grade school where you are from?

  7. Posted by Joe on

    Was it after they killed them that the species got upgraded to not endangered?

  8. Posted by Eric on

    What was the situation that the animal was in ???

    I did 6 tours in Alert and never ever seen a fence – but i guess it could have got injured by something else – if you were there you could tell us a bit more about what really happened

  9. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    I would suggest you all get off their backs.

    If you live anywhere in Nunavut, you know hunters (including some elders) have hunted and killed illegally all the time. Many just take the fat off the backs and leave the rest of the carcass to nature.

  10. Posted by Wally on

    The officer charged, being the station’s Commanding Officer, was the local “chain of command” and the decision was a local issue, not one for distant higher command (i.e. Yellowknife or Ottawa) . The unfortunate condition of the caribou made its immediate dispatch the best ethical decision. While unclear why the antlers became a trophy, that law stems from need to discourage endangered animal harvesting for trophy purposes. This is/was not a concern here. The case deserves early dismissal and, perhaps, a query raised about why Environment Canada took this matter to the courts with such enthusiasm.

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