Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Canadian hunters with disabilities win right to bring hunting companions in their vehicles

From The Vancouver Sun in Canada:

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the environment ministry discriminates against handicapped hunters by not allowing them to have a designated “hunting companion” with them in their vehicles while out hunting.

The ruling followed a complaint by Larry Hall, a hunter of 55 years experience who suffers from Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a disease that causes nerve damage, leaving him able to walk only short distances.

The Kootenay hunter filed his first complaint in November 2004, and another in 2007 on behalf of the Canadian Outdoor Disabled Alliance.

Hall — one of the 100 or so hunters who is eligible for the disabled hunter special access permit — said the regulation discriminated against disabled hunters because it does not allow them to bring hunting companions along in their vehicles to track and kill wounded animals.

Disabled hunters were only allowed to carry “non-hunting” companions in their vehicles and these people were not permitted to dispatch wounded animals. A non-hunting companion could only be used to retrieve killed game.

Hall said the regulation put him in a “Catch 22” in that if he shoots an animal, but due to his disability he’s unable to dispatch it, he contravenes section 35 of the Wildlife Act.

Hunting companions were only allowed to be present if they walked, or biked or came in on horseback carrying their own firearms and equipment.

The hunting companion also had to leave the same way as he or she came in without any of their equipment being transported in the disabled person’s vehicle.

The ministry said this was to prevent a hunting companion benefiting from access to areas set aside for disabled hunters, and to prevent undue hardship to the environment, the roads, wildlife habitat and exerting unnecessary pressure on hunting in the designated areas.

But tribunal member Judy Parrack disagreed.

In a complex 75-page decision, she found the ministry had contravened the Human Rights Code by failing to consider fully “the impact that the absence of a hunting companion would have on Mr. Hall and when it failed to take reasonable steps to accommodate Mr. Hall and other disabled hunters in the Kootenay Region.”

However, neither side had provided submissions on what should be done in the event Hall’s complaint was upheld.

Given this, Parrack said it would be inappropriate for her to “craft a remedy” without submissions, as the issue is a complicated one that “may have implications beyond Mr. Hall and the disabled hunters in the Kootenay Region.”

She gave both parties 60 days to submit recommendations.