It’s an ironic statement that can sum up a trial that took place in provincial court in Corner Brook Wednesday morning. In fact, Judge Wayne Gorman described the circumstances that landed Scott White in court as ironic.
The Pollard’s Point man was doing his father in-law, Robert Blanchard, a favour by taking the elderly gentleman turr hunting. They headed out to Sop’s Island, White manning the boat and Blanchard poised at the bow with his shotgun ready.
They had already snagged one bird in the early morning of Nov. 3 when wildlife and conversation officers approached their vessel. Blanchard was doing nothing wrong in hunting that day, producing his migratory bird permit to the officers and showing his gun was loaded safely.
But White didn’t have a licence to be out hunting. If you asked White, as officer Paul Harris did, he didn’t need one. He wasn’t hunting that day, he was driving the boat so his father in-law could shoot a few turr.
White testified he doesn’t even own a gun. In fact, he runs the risk of paralyzing himself if he shoots one. He suffered a workplace injury in 1991 that resulted in several fractures in his neck and wrist — the neck injury leaving him prone to further damage from sudden jolts such as the firing of a gun.
In the Migratory Birds Act, however, a hunter is identified as anybody actively engaged in the pursuit — including, yes, operating a boat. Thus, White was charged with breaching the Act.
During the trial, the only questions White, who represented himself, asked Harris were whether the officer saw him in possession of a gun, and how far was he from a gun while on the boat? The officer answered no, and about 12-15 feet.
White didn’t dispute the facts presented to the court. He said he was operating the boat without a bird licence, but didn’t know he needed one. He assumed it was the same as taking his father in-law moose hunting, he said.
“I don’t break the law,” he said. “I have no criminal record.”
Crown attorney Andrew May presented the straight forward facts and outlined the offence under the Migratory Birds Act. He said White was hunting because he was operating the boat, including steering the boat in the direction of the birds and driving to the spot of the kill for retrieval.
As much as he sympathized with the accused, the lawyer said it is a liability offence whereby a lack of knowledge is not a defence.
Meanwhile, Gorman said there is irony in the fact a man was being tried for assisting someone to legally hunt. He said such convictions usually involve some form of illegal hunting.
The judge will give his decision March 26.