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Justice for Mr. Patrick Swonnell

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Mr. Patrick Swonnell,  detained in July 2019 by British Columbia Conservation Officers as they pursued a family of black bears, is now suing a B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) Constable, alleging he was unlawfully detained, assaulted, battered and defamed. 

The incident that led to Swonnell’s arrest attracted extensive media attention at the time. As you can imagine this ordeal has caused tremendous emotional, physical  and financial stress and anxiety for Mr. Swonnell who is retired and on a limited pension.  Funds raised will go directly towards Mr. Swonnell's legal counsel ( Arden Beddoes, Beddoes Litigation) to help cover the costs associated with this lawsuit and may also be used to cover Mr. Swonnell's personal expenses (travel, counselling etc) that arise from this ordeal.  


Mr. Swonnell, 69, of Coquitlam, was one of three persons arrested on July 30, 2019. According to a filed lawsuit, Officer Todd Hunter was leaving a wooded portion of a residential area where he had killed three bears – a female bear and her two cubs – at the same time Swonnell was walking along a sidewalk toward his home. Swonnell alleges that Officer Hunter – an imposing figure dressed in black and carrying a shotgun – began shouting incomprehensibly at him, then charged at and chased him.

Swonnell’s lawsuit alleges that Officer Hunter trespassed onto his private property, grabbed him from the steps of his front porch, and dragged him away from his own home. Swonnell was handcuffed and arrested in the street, where he was told he was under arrest for obstruction offences.

The lawsuit maintains that, based on Hunter’s representations to RCMP officers, Swonnell was handcuffed and forcibly confined in the backseat of an RCMP vehicle for around 40 minutes.

In January 2020, the BC Prosecution Service declined to approve any charges against Swonnell.

The lawsuit also alleges that both Hunter and BCCOS Inspector Murray Smith made defamatory remarks to the media, including the false assertion that Swonnell stepped between a BCCOS Constable and a bear, thus obstructing the Constable in his duties. In fact, Swonnell’s lawsuit maintains that he did not observe any of the bears that were killed on July 30, 2019.

As a result of these events, Swonnell alleges that he has suffered severe distress, anxiety and headaches; he has also experienced nightmares stemming from the traumatic experience. Swonnell’s lawsuit also describes a nervous breakdown that occurred in his physician’s office, shortly after the incident. Swonnell conveys that his physician prescribed anti-anxiety medication as a result.   

Further, Swonnell maintains that he has experienced physical trauma stemming from the incident. Swonnell’s lawsuit notes that several of his neighbours observed him being arrested, adding to his embarrassment and humiliation.

Commenting on his lawsuit, Swonnell stated: “I’m seeking redress, including compensation, for being unlawfully assaulted, detained, and defamed. In my opinion, BCCOS policies and actions need to be independently reviewed. As well, BCCOS Officers should be required to wear body cameras and when they are called out, they should be supervised, potentially by an RCMP officer”.

All funds raised will go directly towards Mr. Swonnell's legal counsel to help cover the costs associated with this lawsuit. Funds may also be used to cover Mr. Swonnell's personal expenses (ie. transportation costs to court) that arise from this ordeal.  

Any funds remaining after the conclusion of Mr. Swonnell's case will be split between two registered non profits:

Critter Care Wildlife Society. For over  30 years Critter Care has specialized in the treatment,  care and release of sick, injured and orphaned BC native mammals. Critter Care is the only facility in BC specializing in the care of mammals and one of only three bear rehabilitation facilities in the province. When the BCCOS kills mother bears in the Lower Mainland area, the orphaned cubs are brought to Critter Care for rehab and eventual release. Critter Care receives no government funding and depends solely on the support of the public. 

The Fur-Bearers.  Founded in 1953, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (The Fur-Bearers)  works to protect fur-bearing animals in the wild and confinement through conservation, advocacy, research and education (C.A.R.E). The Fur-Bearers' Living With Wildlife campaign provides education, scientific resources, and solutions that can mitigate and prevent human-wildlife conflict, protect habitats and ecosystems, and keep wildlife families safe.  In 2020 website and #StashYourTrash pledge were created to raise awareness and create an educational resource for communities facing conflict with wildlife. In most circumstances, human conflict with wildlife can be traced to resources; frequently, the available resources that changes wildlife behaviour and creates conflict comes from people. 

PHOTO CREDITS:  3 Bears. Tony Joyce Photography, Port Moody, BC @TonyJoycePhotography

BCCOS at Coquitlam bear incident, July 31, 2019 . Mario Bartel, The Tri-City news


Corinne Robson
Anmore, BC

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