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Guide outfitter's lawsuit certified as class action

Legal action stems from provincial government's ban on grizzly hunt

A northern B.C. guide outfitter's legal battle with the provincial government over the ban on hunting grizzly bears has been certified as a class action.

In a decision issued March 1, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth McDonald found there is a cause of action for "negligent misrepresentation" by the province and that a class action works from a "practical cost-benefit" approach.

The lead plaintiff is Ronald Fleming, who owns Love Bros. and Lee Ltd. which has been operating on the headwaters of the Finlay River for over 50 years according to the business' website.

In December 2017, Doug Donaldson, then Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, issued an order that amended the Hunting Regulation and the Limited Entry Hunting Regulation to effectively removed any open season for grizzly bears.

A year later, a notice of claim was filed on Fleming's behalf seeking compensation for loss of the hunt. Amended in May 2021, in part, it alleges that based on past "representations" by the province prior to the ban, guide outfitters had reason to conclude that "protection of their commercial interests would continue" and that their financial interests would not be harmed, only to see the province fail in that regard.

It also alleges the step was taken in response to public opinion and not concern that the hunt was unsustainable, a point McDonald said in her decision was not in dispute. According to Fleming's claim, a sustainable 250 grizzly bears out of a population of 15,000 in B.C. are harvested each year.

MacDonald rejected a claim that Donaldson committed "misfeasance in public office" as lacking a reasonable cause for action and the case was not certified against him.

Next steps for the parties include presenting a notice program for approval by the court.