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Parks Canada Not at Fault in 1995 Bear Attack

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November 3, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

The Canadian federal government was not at fault for injuries sustained by two young Australian men who were mauled by a bear at Lake Louise campground 15 years ago, a judge has ruled.

In a written decision released Tuesday (Nov. 2), Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ged Hawco said there was no breach of duty by Parks Canada and dismissed the claim by Andrew Brodie and Owen Hereford, The Vancouver Sun reported.

“While I have tremendous sympathy for their horrific encounter, I am satisfied that Parks Canada was not negligent and did not breach its duty of care towards them, as wardens of the park could not reasonably have foreseen a risk of injury to them at the time.”

Court heard Brodie, 36, and Hereford, 37, came to Canada on Sept. 17, 1995, to work at ski resorts in Western Canada – just eight days before the attack.

On Sept. 24, they drove to Lake Louise and failed to get accommodation in the youth hostel, so they went to the campground.

It was at 3:30 the next morning when a bear tore into their tent and began biting Brodie’s arm, causing him to scream that he was going to die. Hereford then kicked at the bear, which turned on him.

Brodie then tried to distract the bear, which again turned on him and was only subdued when he smashed a rock into the animal’s face. That gave the men an opportunity to run away and finally seek refuge on a bus.

Both men suffered serious injuries, but Brodie was the worst with many puncture wounds and claw marks to his knees, feet and buttocks. He spent six months recovering, two of them in hospital.

The men argued at trial there was insufficient warning of grizzly bears in the area, in particular lack of signage at the campground, after five other bear encounters in the Lake Louise area in recent weeks.

But the judge said the warnings given were appropriate and noted the men had been given and read material related to potential bear encounters.

“In my respectful opinion, the warnings given were appropriate,” said Hawco. “There is some risk to campers in any campsite in Banff National Park that they will encounter a bear. In this case, it was the considered view of the park wardens, after a number of meetings and discussions, immediately prior to this incident, that there was no foreseeable risk of injury to a camper so long as there was no food or garbage in the camper’s tent.”

The judge said had he found Parks Canada breached its duty of care to the men, he would have awarded $40,000 in general damages to Brodie and $30,000 to Hereford. He also would have given just $7,527 in loss of income to Hereford, who had sought more than $1 million.

Neither of the men could be reached for comment.

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