Blue Line

Safeguarding Canada’s environment and wildlife: New vessel aids wildlife officers in enforcing protection laws

May 8, 2023  By Brittani Schroeder

Photo credit: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) environmental and wildlife enforcement officers work in every province and territory across the country to enforce the laws and regulations that protect and conserve the environment and its biodiversity.

Blue Line recently spoke with Jonathan Campagna, Executive Director of Wildlife Enforcement Operations in the ECCC Enforcement Branch, on the role of ECCC enforcement officers, and the addition of a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat to their operations.

The switch from law enforcement to ECCC

Before joining the ECCC Enforcement Branch in 2011, Campagna was a provincial police officer with the Sûreté du Québec for almost 12 years. His career with the police ranged from carrying out basic policing duties, to being promoted to the criminal investigation division, being a crime scene technician and breathalyzer specialist, and finally a station house officer. In the criminal investigation division, Campagna was responsible for various files, including the fight against drug trafficking networks with organized crime and smuggling.

As a peace officer, Campagna was always interested in protecting nature and wildlife. “I believe we can make a difference through our daily actions in this area. I was attracted to ECCC, the mandate of the department and the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate.” He was hired on as a manager of criminal intelligence in 2011 and became the director of wildlife enforcement in the Quebec region in 2015, and the Executive Director of Wildlife Enforcement Operations in 2023. “I love my work and I can count on a team of dedicated managers and officers who are passionate about our mandate.”

As the Executive Director of Operations, Campagna is responsible for regular and specialized Wildlife Enforcement operations, in close collaboration with the regional directors across the country. “I have also had the opportunity to head up the development of certain national initiatives, some of which involve equipment and vehicle fleet.”

Working with ECCC

The role of officers in the ECCC Enforcement Branch is to ensure compliance with the laws that protect the air, water, natural environment, animals and plants. “Depending on the situation, our officers patrol, survey, monitor, inspect and investigate situations, actions or incidents where individuals or businesses may harm or impact animals, plants or other elements of the environment,” said Campagna. The officers apply appropriate measures so that offenders comply with the law, which could include taking people to court. In the Branch’s Wildlife Enforcement Directorate, their mandate also involves protecting hundreds of wild animal and plant species, at home and abroad, by monitoring imports and exports at the border. “We also patrol thousands of kilometres of protected areas all across the country. Canada has a unique biodiversity and we’re proud to be able to help protect it.”

ECCC’s environmental and wildlife enforcement officers enforce a range of legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), Pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act (FA), Species at Risk Act (SARA), Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA), Canada Wildlife Act (CWA), the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulations of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA), and the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act.

Officers apply the following criteria when determining the appropriate enforcement action:

  • The nature of the violation: seriousness of harm, intent of the violator, compliance history, attempts to conceal information or undermine respect for the legislation;
  • The effectiveness of the measure in achieving the desired result: the desired result being compliance with the Acts within the shortest possible time and with no further occurrence of violations; and,
  • Consistency in enforcement: within and across regulated communities and across Canada.

The Enforcement Branch of ECCC counts on a network of partners to carry out their mandate, which include federal, provincial, municipal and sometimes international organizations, like INTERPOL. For example, the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate receives continual support from the Canada Border Services Agency during inspections and investigations related to import and export controls. “In terms of protecting species at risk and migratory birds, our officers can count on partners at all levels of government. Everyone is dedicated to preserving the ecosystem for today and for future generations. The various police forces across the country also provide essential support in a number of areas. In some cases, our targets are the same, so it’s important for us to work together.”

The RoughWater 6.70

The Wildlife Enforcement Directorate must be able to work on land and water. It is crucial for the officers to be able to travel on the various waterways in the Quebec region, which includes the largest freshwater navigable waterway in the country—the St. Lawrence River. “There are a number of islands and protected areas in the river, and our officers need a watercraft that can manoeuvre in difficult-to-access places and meet the navigation challenges of these areas,” said Campagna.

Previously, the boat that the team was using was more than 25 years old. It was a rigid hull boat with a draft that prevented the officers from accessing essential areas. As a single-engine craft, it was also less powerful than other boats on the water and it was noisy. “Its weight and out-of-water measurements were a significant issue and made it very difficult to transport it by land without a special permit. It could only hold three officers. The navigation equipment was also outdated and hard to replace.” When the new boat arrived, the whole team was very happy to be able to carry out their mandate more effectively.

In the search for a new boat to better suit their needs, ECCC awarded the contract to build a custom patrol boat to Canadian company Rosborough Boats, which is known in the industry for working with law enforcement agencies. In late 2021, the new rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), the RoughWater 6.70, was delivered. “The boat has a rigid hull enhanced with airbags that allows our officers to patrol areas that would have been inaccessible in the past. It can carry six to eight officers at a time and pollutes less, so we can travel more efficiently and economically.”

Having this new boat has made work much easier for ECCC officers. Last fall, they did break-in and performance testing, and it’s now ready for its first season of regular use (2022).

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