REPORTING · 8th December 2011
Mayor of Kitimat, Joanne Monaghan, was in court on Thursday, December 8th. The issue at hand regarded a series of events in 2009 involving Squirrel / Bird Feeders in her backyard. Jack Talstra, the Former Mayor of Terrace, was representing Monaghan while Judith Doulis represented Environmental Crown Council.
The series of events was related to the court. The Conservation Officer came to inspect Monaghan’s property after receiving a complaint about her attracting dangerous wildlife into her neighbourhood as well as an inappropriate use of bear bangers, which were being fired off three times a day. The bears were becoming accustomed to the noise and were being driven into yards where young children play.
The incident began on the wrong foot. The senior Conservation Office, who has worked with Mayor Joanne Monaghan in the past, sent in a Junior Officer, who was not experienced with her, to investigate. He arrived on July 10th, when Monaghan was in the shower. She greeted him through the window in a towel, with a cell phone in her hand.
She told the Officer to go away as he was harassing her. She also told him he was not allowed to go into the back yard. The Conservation Officer however did not need her permission as he was acting on a complaint. A Conservation Officer can inspect a private property, but they cannot inspect the inside of a house.
The Officer found the bird seed was between 2 and 4 inches thick on the ground. Monaghan was given 5 days to clean up the property and remove the attraction. She signed under protest and suggested she be arrested. It was explained the 5 days was a lot more time than usual. Normally the Conservation Officers give a single day.
The Conservation Officers were unable to inspect the clean up until July 29th. When they showed up, Monaghan called the Police on them and an RCMP Officer attended. They found the seeds had been partially cleaned up, but the feeders had been refilled. Monaghan was asked to remove the bird seed from all the feeders.
Monaghan accused the Conservation Officer of targeting her because she was a member of the Bear Care Committee and the Mayor of Kitimat. This time, she was issued a warning ticket and told to clean up the bird seed or she would get a new Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order and the enforcement actions would be stacked up.
She called them liars and accused the Conservation Officer of trying to get into her house and take pictures of her in a towel.
On August 4th, the Conservation Officer and the RCMP attended again. This time, the seeds were 15 to 20 centimetres (6 to 8 inches) deep. She failed to comply and was issued another Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order. On August 11th, she was served another order. It was stated in court she suggested they arrest her so she could take Computer Courses in Jail. She was told to clean up the seeds. She told them to arrest her and serve 5 other tickets to people with bird feeders.
On the 18th, she was given yet another ticket. Monaghan ripped up this ticket and tried to place it back in the officer’s pocket. She was told once more to remove all the feeders. Monaghan replied she was not going to and proceeded to tear up the Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order she had just been handed. She then told the RCMP officers they have better things to do with their time.
Doulis said this is a tier two offence, with a fine of no more then $100,000 or a year in prison or both. Creative sentencing could apply. This is an issue where the public safety of a neighbourhood came into question and she wanted to send a clear strong message concerning items which could attract bears into a community.
As a member of the Bear Care Committee, as well as the chair, Monaghan had a clear idea of what attracted bears into neighbourhoods and that bird seed is one of those attractants. Her name and address is found in a pamphlet which has this information. The Conservation Officers have also provided the information to Council meetings where she has been in attendance. In addition, biologists argue birds do not need to be fed during the spring, summer and fall months, just during the winter while the bears den.
It was also pointed out in the past Monaghan tried to chase down a pair of Conservation Officers as they were removing a bear from the community in their truck. Crown argued she had shown no responsibility or remorse on this issue. In regards to the Conservation Officers she was not truthful and even inflammatory.
The Crown recommended a $100 fine, a $1,100 donation to the Northern Lights Wildlife Association, and Monaghan would not be able to set up a feeder in her backyard for two years. However, the trial was not over.
Simon Cammish, the Mayor’s Husband, was called to the stand to speak about the Bird feeders. He cleans up the seeds 3 times a year as his wife is not able to do so. There is a large fence around the property and bears can not climb over it. They only had 2-3 bears in the yard during the 40 years they had owned the house, and this was all in 2009.
Upon the first visit of the Conservation Officer, Cammish searched the fence and found a neighbour had left a trailer next to it which the bears could access the property. He asked the neighbour to move the trailer and the problem was solved. No further bears in the yard. He made an effort to clean up the mess but was tardy and wanted to apologize to the Conservation Officer.
As bird watching is therapeutic to him and his wife, he offered to make a containment area for the seeds or work with the Conservation Officers to find a means where they could keep the bird feeders and not attract bears.
When asked if the scent of the seeds could be attracting bears to other yards, he replied the neighbours have a mountain ash tree and an apple tree in their yards and bears are always in the two looking for food. He has done everything to keep the bears from getting into his yard.
Cammish was also asked why he saw things differently than the Conservation Officer. Cammish replied the officer was a junior officer and did not look at the bigger picture, how the bears got into the yard. If they had, they would have looked at the trailer first and ignored the seeds. He experiences the same problem with his apprentices. He was told the Conservation Officers do have experts which they consult with. Cammish saw the fence as a solution to the problem as it deterred the bears from getting to the seeds.
Talstra concluded there is not a ban on bird feeders in Kitimat. There have only been three bears on the property and only two bear bangers were used to scare the bears away. Two years have gone by since this happened and there were no bears during this time so the Monaghan household prohibition on bird feeders had already passed. He also gave the court a history of Monaghan’s distinguished career as a politician. He agreed with the rest of the conditions but suggested a 72 hour notice on inspections. He added Monaghan is a trained Bear Whisperer
Doulis argued the Monaghan household did what they felt like, not what they were told to do by the Conservation Officer. This is why the prohibition was recommended.
Monaghan had a chance to speak, she told the court she has lived in the house for forty years, and during this time, they have only had 3 bears in the back yard, and this is because of a trailer.
The Judge, the Honourable Seidemann III, agreed with Talstra. Monaghan has had a very distinguished record. However, this was all her fault and she was the one who started it. Someone phoned in a complaint. The Conservation Officer who showed up did not know Monaghan but he tried to solve the problem. If she had cooperated, they probably would have discovered the trailer in the back yard. However, because she was upset, she escalated the problem.
At this point in the trial, Joanne Monaghan tried to cut the judge off and was stopped short. Seidemann explained: this is the point where he delivers a verdict and it is the only time he is permitted to speak during a trial and he is to do so without interruption. Monaghan apologized as this was her first time in court.
Seidemann told Monaghan Conservation Officers are entitled to be given respect and the assumption they are acting properly. The Conservation Officer was acting responsibly and he was not given respect or cooperation.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan was fined $100, a court order to donate $1100 to the Northern Lights Wildlife Association. She has to remove all attractants from her yard as soon as the weather permits and she is not allowed to have a feeder between April and October in 2012. In 2013, she cannot have a feeder except where approved by the Conservation Officers. The Conservation Officers can inspect to ensure compliance but they have to give 48 hour notice.
As she was leaving the court, she pondered aloud a question: What would happen to the other 500 Bird Feeders in Kitimat. Her lawyer reminded her quickly, court was still in session.
On the other hand!!
Comment by James Ippel on 23rd December 2011
I would have done my Bear Whispering with my securtiy team of Marlin and Stevens. It is amazing the results you get from these people, and not complaints or comebacks.
Comment by Danny Nunes on 11th December 2011
I never said they were christians...I said they were fundamentalist christians...and theres a big difference.
The animal shelter just happens to be one of there pet projects...ah ha ha funny joke...but seriously I stand by what I said as I have had the misfortune of listening and dealing with these folks and the mockery they make of actual good christian people.
Sadly they save there real venom for the coffee shops and where they think others arent hearing there ahem...negativity...out loud.
They are also busy running outta town anyone who asks questions and challenges them.
So far they have done this to news reporters, conservation officers, municipal managers, city councillors, health professionals, economic development officers, etc.
The town motto should be...if you like to ask questions we will chase you outta here.
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 11th December 2011
I don't think it really had to do with her supporters being Christian. It was more of they are all worshipers of the new animal shelter.
wait a minute!!
Comment by Pat#1 on 10th December 2011
I wonder why the mayor did not use her 'whispering' skills on the wolverine population earlier thhis year???
whisper to me, please!
Comment by mbw on 10th December 2011
This is the BEST news story in a long time. I sent it far and wide to every friend I knew who needed a good laugh. I just don't understand why those bears aren't running screaming in the opposite direction of this property.
Why we vote the way we do in 2011
Comment by Danny Nunes on 10th December 2011
Kitimat elects this woman because she is a fundamentalist christian and a majority of kitimats voting population is also fundamentalist evangelicals....1400 it seems...the other voters were too busy watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and barely keeping up with that task.
Kitimat was a union stronghold community and then we began losing jobs and after the Eurocan pulp mill closure the union vote was nearly wiped out leaving the evangelicals to run to god to try and fix everything....I am sure he or she or it is thrilled.
I am not anti faith or anti christianity but I am not a big fan of those who apply there religious views onto there decisions of whom to elect and why....I just am not a big fan of using logic from nearly 3000 years ago since there was no google search or Twitter then.
I must say there are some awesome benefits to being a christian politician in todays society and I can see why they consistently get elected to majoritys....its cause of all the awesome loopholes!
No matter what you do in office that goes against the very tenants of your faith its okay because you can always justify them as the will of god and then hop into the magical port a potty and confess to the man in the robe as you go number two from your mouth....all better.
Then just repeat the cycle and learn nothing from it because the people of your faith will never ever question you as long as you are on tv wearing the necklace with the lower case t.
Moral loopholes....much better than tax loopholes.
Comment by k mullet on 9th December 2011
I just don't get why the ppl of kitimat would vote for such a creature??
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 9th December 2011
Maybe if she whispered to the conservation officer ,she wouldn't have made such a fool of herself.
Comment by John Thompson on 9th December 2011
I would very much like to know where she got her training in bear whispering. I would also like to know how many bears she whispered too.
Comment by Pat on 9th December 2011
She could have 'whispered' to 2 bears...then those 2 bears could have told 2 more bears and so on and so on......
Comment by Chris on 8th December 2011
This is really absurd behaviour from any grown adult, let alone the Mayor! How immature of Ms. Monaghan. You should be embarrased of yourself. Also a complete waste of court time and costs as far as I'm concerned.
Comment by Maggie Jo on 8th December 2011
If she's a bear whisperer...then why the need for the bear bangers she was using???
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 8th December 2011
Monaghan is a bear whisperer?! She should have told the conservation officer that before all this started ...it could have saved her the embarrassing spectacle. lol
Comment by Iamstunned on 8th December 2011
The voters of Kitimat actually voted for this woman??? What an embarassment for the city!