Members of the Invermere Deer Protection Society (IDPS) have won a major court battle against the District of Invermere (DOI) in the latest chapter of the Invermere deer cull saga.
The DOI had made an application to dismiss the civil lawsuit filed against the district in February for its deer protection bylaw permitting a cull and to recover legal costs from the IDPS; however, on Tuesday, May 29, a Supreme Court of British Columbia judge ruled in favour of the IDPS, meaning they are free to continue with their suit to challenge the DOI Urban Deer Management Program.
The district had unsuccessfully argued the lawsuit was now a moot issue as the deer cull permit had already expired, but the judge agreed with the point made by the IDPS that the 2011 council decision to reduce Invermere urban deer numbers to 50 carried implications well into 2014.
“The district is saying that there’s no point in continuing the lawsuit because the cull is over and the permit is expired, but there’s nothing stopping them from killing deer in 2013,” IDPS president Devin Kazakoff told The Valley Echo.
IDPS lawyer Rebeka Breder said the judge agreed with her argument that the lawsuit was not a moot issue. However, there was another reason the judge had stated, which Breder felt was especially important.
“If I were to take anything away from this decision, one of the reasons that he decided not to dismiss [the lawsuit] is because he found that the issues that we’re dealing with have much broader implications in B.C. when it comes to animal control,” Breder said. “I think that’s key, because there aren’t any precedents right now in B.C. dealing with how much public consultation, if any, is required in animal control matters.”
Breder feels this case could set exactly that precedent, and believes it could have Canada-wide implications if the court’s verdict is in their favour when the case is finally heard, likely in the fall or potentially sometime next year.
The IDPS (formerly known as the Invermere Deer Protection Organization, or IDPO) sprang up shortly before Invermere was set to begin their deer cull, which took place in February. The cull was one of several deer control measures council first agreed upon at a DOI meeting in August 2011. District council made the decision based on the recommendations made by the DOI Urban Deer Management Committee, but Kazakoff said the information obtained by that committee is suspect, in particular regarding the overall deer count numbers.
“We’re challenging the bylaw based on the fact that they adopted the deer committees recommendations, which were not done scientifically and were not done properly,” Kazakoff said.
Kazakoff, as a former member of the deer committee before being removed by the district, said that from his firsthand experience the counts were done by unqualified persons and in some cases, he claims, even by children. He also believes the count should be held in the spring or summer, as opposed to the winter months. Stan Markham, who was named the new chair of the deer committee at a DOI meeting on May 22, was not available for comment under the committee’s terms of reference set out by council.
“The first and foremost thing is to have the proper research done by the proper people,” Kazakoff said. “We advocate for non-lethal solutions if it is determined there are too many deer in town, which we don’t even know if that’s the case.”
DOI chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said there are further scheduled counts planned for later this year, but declined to comment on the IDPS claims that the count was improperly done.
“They aren’t scientists either,” Prosser said.
“I know that it’s been tossed around that we’re looking for money, but that’s not the case at all, we’re not asking for money,” Kazakoff said. “What happens here could have implications for the whole province and the rest of Canada too. Of course we’ve all been on edge, as a lot hinged on what the judge decided, so we’re all extremely happy about it and now we can move on. It’s a huge win for the organization and it’s a great feeling to know that we’re still making a difference out there, and that we can still stop these culls.”