March 21, 2005

Court levies one of Canada's highest fines on 45 charges of bear parts trafficking

A Quebec court last week fined Marc Langlois of LÈvis, QuÈbec a total of $47,456 plus court costs after he pleaded guilty to 45 charges, under both federal and Quebec legislation, relating to the purchase, sale and possession of black bear gall bladders for the purpose of illegal interprovincial trade. This is one of the highest fines ever imposed in Canada for such offences.

Langlois had been charged with 25 counts under section 8(b) of the federal Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. He was found guilty of possessing black bear gall bladders for trafficking purposes between February 2001 and November 2002. He was also convicted of 20 charges under the Quebec's Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife relating to the purchase or sale of black bear gall bladders.

The poaching-related charges were laid against Langlois following an investigation carried out under a major enforcement initiative known as Operation AmÈrica. Carried out between 2001 and 2003, Operation AmÈrica targeted the poaching and illicit trade of black bear parts and other game. It involved more than 200 officers from Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife, the Canadian Wildlife Service branch of Environment Canada, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On November 20, 2002, wildlife officers from Environment Canada and Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife executed search warrants at Langlois' residence and workplace. Other search warrants were simultaneously carried out in over 60 locations in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and the United States.

To date, some 56 individuals have been fined a total of $267,167 for violations of Quebec's laws, with three persons ordered to pay $68,254 in fines for contraventions of federal law. Including Langlois' penalties, Operation AmÈrica has yielded $382,921 in fines, including court costs. Various goods such as meat, weapons and vehicles have also been confiscated.

Black bear gall bladders are used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. The black bear is protected by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Environment Canada co-ordinates CITES in Canada, which has the world's largest black bear habitat. In Quebec, the management and protection of bear and its habitats is carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife.

More information is available from Sheldon Jordan of Environment Canada's wildlife enforcement division, 418/649-6122.

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