A young caribou is seen here in a snow squall just off the Dempster Highway. Concern about the caribou population’s decline has resulted in a zero quota for a local outfitter, triggering a court-ordered judicial review. (Peter Mather/Yukon News file)

A young caribou is seen here in a snow squall just off the Dempster Highway. Concern about the caribou population’s decline has resulted in a zero quota for a local outfitter, triggering a court-ordered judicial review. (Peter Mather/Yukon News file)

Yukon Supreme Court orders judicial review of zero caribou quota

Yukon Big Game Outfitters was issued a zero quota for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 hunting seasons

The Yukon Supreme Court has ordered a judicial review to take place regarding Yukon Big Game Outfitters’ caribou quota.

The outfitter’s quota was reduced to zero caribou for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 hunting seasons. The quota decision prompted the outfitter to file a petition to the Supreme Court asking the decision to be quashed in October 2020.

The decisions, it alleges, were “procedurally flawed” and were unreasonable, based on improper interpretations of guidelines and legislation.

Multi-year caribou quotas were administered to the outfitter up until 2015, after which only single-year quotas of seven caribou were issued. In 2018, the outfitter was informed by the Department of Environment that their quota would be zero.

The outfitter objected to the quota, triggering a hearing under the Wildlife Act. The review board responsible issued a report recommending a quota of two to four caribou be issued annually.

Pauline Frost, minister of environment, instead confirmed the quota of zero in March 2020. She cited concerns about the decline of the Finlayson Caribou Herd and the effect of subsistence harvesting.

In July 2019, the outfitter was informed their quota would again be zero for the 2020-21 season.

Supreme Court judge Suzanne Duncan ordered that a judicial review take place, in a ruling made on March 5.

Duncan decided that the quota for both hunting years will be included in the review, focusing on the decisions made in March and July.

“The same relief is sought by (the outfitter) for both decisions — that is, that they be quashed, and on the same grounds,” Duncan wrote in her decision.

“The evidence and legal arguments are likely to be the same for both, although there may be some factual differences related to differences in processes followed in different years.”

Duncan also ruled that the Yukon government should share “any documents relating to the technical and local information being considered, and the recent concerns of the (Ross River Dena Council) about caribou harvest in the area that affected the decision-maker’s decision must be disclosed.”

Vincent Larochelle, the outfitter’s legal counsel, had requested more transparency about the quota decision in earlier court proceedings.

Duncan agreed in her decision that material affecting the decisions will be significant to the review.

“It is relevant to whether the decisions were made for irrelevant purposes; whether the decision-maker failed to consider relevant factors or to address issues raised by (the outfitter) and (Ross River Dena Council); and whether the decisions were inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Wildlife Act,” Duncan said.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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