Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Comment: Flawed Sidney Island deer plan is doomed to fail

“We find it difficult to rationalize the use of federal funds to carry out this inhumane plan on an island that is 90 per cent private property. There are many other projects in greater need.”
Fallow deer on Sidney Island. PARKS CANADA

A commentary by residents of Sidney Island.

We have major concerns regarding Parks Canada’s deer eradication project for Sidney Island.

It was introduced more than a decade ago by a small group of Sidney Island owners to eradicate the non-indigenous fallow deer herd, under the guise of ecological restoration as the sole solution to the destruction of the island’s understory.

The Sidney Island Ecological Restoration Project (SIERP) was introduced to bring this to fruition, involving federal and provincial governments, Islands Trust, First Nations and Sidney Island strata owners.

The plan would only be viable if there was universal acceptance by the latter and we were reassured it could be cancelled at any time if there was significant opposition.

This did not happen. From the outset owner opposition was suppressed to the point it was necessary to form the Sidney Island Deer Management Society to provide a voice to owners not in agreement with the decisions of the strata council and Parks Canada.

Over time it became apparent that an increasing number of owners were not in agreement with the plan, when it was revealed the island’s blacktail deer population would be included in the operational plan, with the use of helicopters, semiautomatic rifles and hunting dogs and a two-year duration with significant disruption of the owners’ access to their property.

The first owner vote, held on May 2, 2022, with a threshold of 75 per cent, was soundly defeated, with a 55-45 per cent vote. The next day, six pro-eradication owners filed a claim with the Civil Resolution Tribunal to request a second vote with a simple majority threshold on the grounds the plan was simply “repair and not a significant change to the common property.”

This claim was supported by a strata council motion with a vote of four in favour, two opposed and one abstention. This decision was made without input from all strata owners, who had been involved in two previous votes establishing a 75 per cent threshold.

The tribunal adjudicator ruled that a simple majority would apply and a second vote should be held within three months.

This vote was held on March 2, 2023, with 50 in favour, 46 opposed, three abstentions and 10 not voting. The resolution carried. However, it is significant that 54.5 per cent of strata owners did not approve of plan.

In the interim, a representative from the Animal Alliance of Canada approached the federal ombudsman with a claim of conflict of interest involving the CEO of Coastal Conservation.

He was the chairman of the SIERP steering committee and adamant the only solution to our problem was eradication of the deer. Ultimately, his company was awarded the contract.

The conflict of interest claim was rejected as the rep from AAC was “not a bidder” on the contract.

The island’s hunt committee has managed to significantly reduce the herd size with marked rebound in ecological recovery. Now it is rare to see a deer and we are confronted with invasive broom, holly and hawthorn.

We find it difficult to rationalize the use of federal funds to carry out this inhumane plan on an island that is 90 per cent private property. There are many other projects in greater need.

We urge the federal government to cancel or postpone this project until a scientific deer count is carried out and evaluation of the degree of ecological restoration.

In addition, we feel it is imperative to poll the strata owners who will permit Parks Canada access to their private property before the first phase is initiated. This is a prerequisite for the second phase.

Once Phase 1, with helicopters, marksmen and hunting dogs starts, there will be no turning back.