In R v. Turnbull , [2015] NJ No. 54, the Honourable Justice Joy of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court dismissed all charges against Mr. Turnbull that stemmed from him hunting a polar bear without a license and outside the hunting season and grounds. Based on the evidence at trial, and his own research, the Court held that the provincial government lacked jurisdiction over polar bears, which are marine mammals and therefore fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.

Justice Joy also held that the provincial statute did not apply because the hunt occurred beyond the low water mark and therefore outside the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Further, he held that Mr. Turnbull had exercised reasonable or due diligence in complying with the law when he decided to kill the polar bear because he was protecting himself and his family.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has appealed this decision. The Notice of Appeal with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador's Court of Appeal was filed on March 18th, 2015.

The Attorney General asserts that Justice Joy erred:

  1. in finding that polar bears fall under the constitutional authority of the Parliament of Canada;
  2. by failing to give Notice to the Attorney General of Canada prior to raising and deciding on the constitutionality of Provincial legislation; and
  3. by finding that the defence of self-defence and/or necessity were available in the circumstances.

Finally, the Attorney General takes issue with the evidence relied on by his Honour and states that it was improper for his Honour to rely on his own factual research in coming to his verdict.

At the time of this update, no hearing date had been set. The issues raised in this appeal may have far reaching implication and could undermine the present structure of polar bear management, which currently accepts polar bears as terrestrial animals and therefore under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

Other Author

Qajaq Robinson


Team North®