The idiot factor
All bureaucracies, along with the paper structures and protocols from which they draw sustenance, have a curious and well-known effect upon the people who work within them.
After gathering decent, fair-minded human beings into their sheltering bosoms — bureaucracies will always transform those good people into idiots.
Nowhere will you find a better example of that principle than a recent incident in Iqaluit, during which wildlife officers armed with a search warrant stormed into a man’s home without his permission — to seize a lowly raven.
Neither the man — nor the raven — had committed any known crime. Neither man nor raven posed any threat to the public. Iqaluit, with a population close to 4700, is a big town, big enough to fend off any danger posed by a raven that can’t fly.
But inside bureaucracies, paper is holy and what is written on paper must be obeyed. When paper is holy, common sense and simple decency are irrelevant.
The law that wildlife officials applied against Craig Clark was never intended to deal with situations such as this. It was intended to protect wildlife from being stolen, sold for profit to zoos or wildlife ranches, or abused in other ways.
It was not intended to punish those who take in wounded birds and try to heal them at their own expense.
Search warrants are state-sanctioned invasions of liberty and privacy. But we accept them because we know that the police and other law enforcement agencies must sometimes enter citizens’ homes to look for stolen goods, illegal drugs, and other evidence of serious crime.
When wildlife officers used a search warrant to invade Craig Clark’s home and to violate his privacy and his liberty, the letter of the law was on their side. The spirit of the law was not, but for those who toil within bureaucracies, “spirit” is an alien concept anyway.
Thanks to the Nunavut land claim, a bewildering variety of bureaucracies now wield authority over wildlife, land, water and other such matters. Each bears its own ugly, unpronounceable acronym — NWMB, QWMB, RWED, HTO — and each employs its own set of puffed-up paper-shufflers with grandiloquent job titles to go with their corner offices.
If they’re managed competently (and that’s a big “if”), these organizations contain the potential to serve the public interest well. Their purpose is to ensure that Inuit have an equal say with governments in the conservation of wildlife, and that Nunavut’s environment receives the protection it deserves.
Those who negotiated the Nunavut land claim agreement and those who conceived of all the little bureaucracies created by that agreement could not, however, incorporate the idiot factor into their thinking.
Nobody can protect themselves against the idiot factor. Just ask Craig Clark. JB