Letters to the Editor

Wildlife smuggling penalties need to be revisited

Editor:

Re “Songbird smuggler tries to bring 30 birds into Canada.”

What a joke!  This is not even criminal code offence. It is an administrative monetary penalty related to the Health of Animals Act. Mr. Kwok knowingly violated Canadian laws, which are designed to protect both our wild fowl and domestic poultry industry from avian Influenza, and its more virulent form:  H5N1.

If a border dog did not catch him, and those birds were infected with either avian Influenza, or H5N1, the consequences could have been dire.  In April of 2004, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ordered the slaughter of 19 million birds in B.C. because of avian Influenza. Even birds that tested negative were pre-emptively destroyed.  And this individual’s fine for risking B.C.’s poultry industry and wildfowl is $7,500?   Canada needs to revisit its penalties for smuggling of wildlife.

A good model when looking to tighten laws for smuggling wildlife is Canada’s drug law, which is based on the perceived harm of drugs. The most dangerous drugs are classified as Schedule I, and include PCP, heroin and cocaine. Marijuana is Schedule II drug. The penalty for trafficking a Schedule I drug is up to life in prison; for a Schedule II drug it is up to five years.

Surely, our wildlife laws need to have penalties that are reflective of the harm a smuggler can do to our society. If a person smuggling marijuana into Canada can expect five years in prison, Mr. Kwok should see something harsher than $7,500, given the potential harm.

Brian Gusko

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