Special to the News
The Yukon government is considering potentially suspending the driver’s licences of residents who don’t to pay their environmental fines.
Environment Yukon submitted a proposal as part of the review of the Yukon’s Motor Vehicle Act to give more teeth to the territory’s environmental legislation.
As of this year, the Yukon government is still owed approximately $200,000 in fines meant for the Turn In Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) fund, officials with Environment Yukon told the News.
Yukon courts can order individuals guilty of environment-related offences to pay a fine to the TIPP fund.
Environment Yukon can suspend some licensing under the current acts, for example a hunting licence.
But besides that, the department’s only other tool to enforce the payment of these fines is civil litigation, meaning filing a lawsuit in a Yukon court.
“The biggest problem is the perceived lack of accountability,” Roxanne Stasyszyn, the department’s director of communications, told the News.
“Without much ability to ensure payment of those fines, our concern is that this deterrent factor for people to consider before committing a crime is lessened.”
With most fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, civil litigation would be time-consuming and costly.
The current proposal would only apply to Yukon residents. It would tie TIPP fines to Yukon driver’s licences.
“The rationale behind this is driving a motor vehicle is a privilege just like hunting and this privilege should not be granted until your accountability to society has been completed,” Stasyszyn said.
Record fine still unpaid
Officials with Environment Yukon said they still haven’t seen a cent of the $20,000 a Yukon poacher was ordered to pay in 2017.
Jonathan Ensor was convicted of 16 violations of the Yukon’s Wildlife Act and two violations of interprovincial wildlife rules.
The court spared Ensor jail time by ordering the TIPP fine, a 20-year hunting ban and a six-month conditional sentence to be served in the community.
During the sentencing hearing, Ensor had offered to pay a $45,000-fine in exchange for a conditional sentence. The Yukon government sought a six-month jail sentence and $20,000 fine arguing there were too many offences and the crimes were too serious in nature to hand down a conditional sentence.
For the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, a non-profit organization that co-manages the TIPP program with Environment Yukon, Ensor’s proposal indicates a serious problem in how the fines are enforced.
“When does somebody that breaks the law starts asking the judge to (pay) more of a fine (to) not go to jail?” said Gord Zealand in an interview with the News.
“What’s going on here?”
The News attempted to reach Ensor for comment via Facebook message and a letter hand-delivered to his last-known address. He did not respond before press time.
The proposal by Environment Yukon is a step in the right direction, Zealand said, even though it can’t be the only answer to better enforce TIPP fines.
When asked about his opinion on the Ensor case, Zealand, a hunter himself, didn’t mince his words.
“I don’t think you’re allowed to print what I think,” he said with a chuckle, before adding:
“It’s a disgrace to the wildlife world.”
During Ensor’s sentencing hearing, a Yukon government biologist testified that the territory’s herds are naturally self-regulated by predators and natural mortality.
That means the harvest rate — the amount of animals that can be hunted while keeping the herds healthy — is low, between zero and four per cent of the total population.
“We have such wonderful opportunities here in the Yukon and have people (who) abuse those. It’s sad, it’s disappointing,” Zealand said.
Documents the News obtained through an access to information request list unpaid environmental fines that the Justice Department compiled in June 2016.
Some cases date back to the 1990s, raising the question of the individuals’ whereabouts.
Stasyszyn said conservation officers keep a detailed list of outstanding fines, going as far back as possible so that if new enforcement mechanisms are created they can take action, including working with other jurisdictions.
A number of now-defunct companies are also listed, including Golden Hill Ventures Ltd, a mining company that went bankrupt in 2010.
At the time the News reported the company had been found guilty of improperly storing waste and spilling petroleum at sites across the territory.
The government’s 2016 documents indicate that at the time company had an “outstanding contribution” of $5,000.
The documents list more than 120 individuals or companies with outstanding TIPP fines, with some cases dating back to 1989 and 1991. The majority of the accused names have been redacted, except for a few companies.
The Yukon government is seeking public input as part of the Motor Vehicle Act review until May 31.
More information is available at engageyukon.ca/en/2019/motor- vehicles-act
With files from Jackie Hong.
Contact Yukon News at firstname.lastname@example.org