Chapin was duck hunting with her friend who she had not seen in some time. The two were chatting and did not notice that they had wandered across a border into a private hunting club (that was partially owned by her husband). They did not notice that there was duck feed on the ground and subsequently shot two ducks. She was arrested by a conservation officer who had been in the area and heard shots. She is charged with breaching s.14(1) of the Migratory Birds Regulations which state that "no person shall hunt for migratory game birds within one-quarter mile of any place where bait has been deposited." The lower decisions (acquitting, convicting, and then acquitting her) were made before R v Sault Ste. Marie.
- What kind of offense is a violation under s.14 of the Migratory Birds Regulations?
All three lower courts had vastly different reasoning. The trial judge believed that this was a mens rea offence; the county court judge believed that it was an absolute liability offence; the Court of Appeal majority also believed that this was a mens rea offence.
The unanimous Court states that this is clearly not a mens rea offence as it is not a "true crime"; it is only punishable by summary conviction. It is also not an absolute liability offence because it does not create a strict prohibition on hunting – it only controls it in certain areas with respect to certain species. As this is a public welfare offence, it is prima facie a strict liability offence that does not require mens rea, but can be rebutted by showing reasonable action on the part of the defendant. The only thing that the Crown can do to rebut this presumption is to show that allowing the defence would considerably weaken the enforcement of the legislation. The Court does not think that this is the case here. They state that this is a classic example of a strict liability offence. They believe that there is evidence that Chapin acted reasonably in the circumstances and took all the necessary things into consideration.
The Crown can try to demonstrate that a public welfare offence (which is prima facie a strict liability offence) is actually an absolute liability offence by showing that allowing the defendant to have a rebuttable defence would severely limit the desired application of the legislation.