Farmers vs. geese trial begins this week in Gore Bay court

by Betty Bardswich

GORE BAY—The trial for Green Bay farmer Paul Skippen opened Monday, July 25 in the Provincial Offences Act courtroom in Gore Bay with the room filled with Skippen supporters including farmers and members of Island fish and game clubs.

Mr. Skippen faced four charges for the unlawful shooting of a Canada goose outside of the hunting period under the Migratory Birds Convention 1994. These charges included unlawfully hunting a migratory bird outside of the open season, failing to immediately make every effort to retrieve a migratory bird, unlawfully disarming a firearm in the travelled portion of a right of way for public vehicular traffic and knowingly making a false statement to a conservation officer.

Don Williams, the Northeast Region provincial prosecutor for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), rose at the beginning of the proceedings to announce that the charge of failing to make every reasonable effort to retrieve a migratory bird had been withdrawn with the Crown then having to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the three remaining charges.

Rupert Grigull, who lives on Lake Manitou, was the first witness called. Mr. Grigull testified that he was on his way to Little Current by way of Bidwell Road when he spotted a pickup truck on his side of the road, went around it, heard shots and saw geese. He then told his wife to call the MNRF and said he saw that it was Mr. Skippen standing in the middle of the road. Mr. Grigull went on to say that he filled out a full report with MNRF Conservation Officer (CO) Kyle Wood and recorded his statement at his residence with his wife and the MNRF officer present.

In answering the questions of defence lawyer Brad Alison, Mr. Grigull stated that the truck in question had both doors open and that he had just passed the truck when he saw a person standing on the pavement between the truck doors and facing towards the field and was several feet from the ditch. He further said that he heard a shotgun discharge, that it was definitely a shotgun, and that the shotgun is the only legal gun you can use to kill fowl. Mr. Grigull heard three shots and saw one goose on the ground with “its feet moving in death throes.”

When asked why he called the MNRF, Mr. Grigull said it was “a blatant disregard for the laws. It was nesting season and out of season.” He also said that his wife was afraid and so was he. “I am 100 percent certain that Mr. Skippen was standing on the road,” he also added.

Prosecution witness Elizabeth Hercun was also on her way to Little Current via Rockville Road and onto Bidwell Road when she saw someone shooting a gun. She stated that she called the MNRF because she saw someone shooting out of season. She was the passenger in the vehicle and said that the truck in question was virtually in the middle of the road. She heard gunshots and saw someone standing between the truck’s two open doors and called the MNRF because she said, “it is dangerous for people to be shooting in the middle of the road.”

Mr. Alison questioned the witness about talking with another witness about the case. Ms. Hercun answered that CO Wood came to her house to talk with her. She also testified that she did not see a gun and did not see a blast of air from the shotgun blast.

Mr. Skippen spoke to The Expositor during a courtroom break and talked about his aversion to geese at times. “They destroyed my barley rop,” he said. “The biggest problem is new growth. They pack it down with their feet and they don’t just eat off the top, they pull the whole thing out. And if you are growing corn, they pull the seeds out.” When asked if farmers receive any compensation at all for these losses, Mr. Skippen replied, “Absolutely no compensation.”

The case is expected to wrap up today, Wednesday, July 27, in Gore Bay.