Last summer, an Edmonton man admitted to shooting and injuring a black bear in Jasper National Park, pleading guilty on Wednesday. Serge Painchaud, 42, was fined $7,500 for violating a hunting restriction under the Canada National Parks Act.
According to an agreed statement of facts read into the Court of Justice in St. Albert, Painchaud and two friends started a hike on the Overlander Trail to Mount Colin Centennial Hut on Aug. 6, 2022, a Saturday.
Painchaud had brought along a Mossberg Model 510 20-gauge shotgun and ammunition. He carried the firearm openly.
The trail is popular and the hikers met other people along the way. At some point, Painchaud got tired and turned back alone.
Around 12:15 p.m., while on his way to the Sixth Bridge parking lot, he encountered a black bear and “became scared,” according to the agreed statement of facts.
The animal was about 30 metres from him, across a small creek.
Painchaud fired a warning shot into the air. The bear shuddered and then took a few steps toward him.
About five seconds after the warning shot, Painchaud shot the bear.
One of his friends called him after hearing the shots and then contacted Parks Canada as Painchaud said cell service was poor in his area.
Jasper Park wardens found two shotgun shells at the scene, and blood from the bear.
“The black bear was injured from being shot by the defendant,” the agreed statement of facts says. “The Jasper Park wardens were unable to locate the black bear after being shot.”
The agreed statement of facts notes Painchaud was co-operative at all times.
Crown prosecutor Adam Karbani argued for a fine between $8,500 and $10,000, a two-year firearm prohibition, and 12 months of probation that included barring Painchaud from using a Parks Canada pass.
Karbani said there was a need for deterrence and denunciation and that Painchaud had knowingly brought a firearm into the park on a busy weekend.
“Firearms are not permitted in national parks unless they’re being securely transported through the park,” he said.
Karbani also noted there was not a lot of case authority in this area.
Defence lawyer Edmond O’Neill took the position that Painchaud should only be fined $4,500 — the minimum required under the legislation. He noted Painchaud had no criminal record or wildlife offences.
He also said Painchaud had saved the court’s time through a guilty plea. A trial would have likely centred on whether he was in urgent peril and whether shooting the bear constituted a defence of necessity.
“This was a very triable case,” O’Neill said.
Justice Rosanna Saccomani rejected the notion, raised by the defence, that Painchaud’s stated fear of bears bore any weight.
“[That] would apply to pretty much every single person in your situation,” she said. “We’re all afraid of bears.”
Saccomani questioned Painchaud on why he had not checked the national parks website for information about carrying a firearm.
“I honestly had no idea that a national park carried different laws than any other Crown land,” Painchaud told court.
“I’d done this many times before, just going for a hike on Crown land.”
Painchaud was ordered to pay the $7,500 within a year. Items seized during the investigation were forfeited.