Nova Scotia Hunter Safety Course


Establishing and Enforcing Laws


In Canada there are three levels of government that can establish and manage laws and regulations: Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. In the case of laws pertaining to hunting, most laws are made on a provincial level.

However the federal government does regulate firearm acquisition and possession. The federal government also regulates the hunting and harvesting of migratory game birds through the Migratory Birds Conservation Act. Since migratory birds have such a wide range across North America, this act was developed to protect migratory birds in collaboration with the federal governments in the US and Mexico. 

Federal laws cannot be overturned or changed by provincial or municipal legislation, however these governments can add new laws on the same topic.  For instance, even though harvesting migratory birds is regulated through the federal government, the provincial or municipal government can enact  a law that regulates the areas where migratory birds may be harvested.

Laws are enforced by various agencies and officials. Hunting laws are primarily enforced by conservation officers, but in some areas they are also the responsibility of the RCMP, Forestry or Park Officers, local Police Officers, and more.  When someone breaks a hunting law, all of these officers may warn, charge, or arrest that person who will then appear before a judge.  Penalties for hunting law violations can vary from monetary fines to equipment seizure to jail time.

All hunters have a responsibility to report any law violation to the officials. In the case of an accidental violation (e.g. if a person accidentally harvests a species that is out of season or for which he or she does not have a hunting license), the incident will be investigated. If negligence is determined to be a factor, the person may still be charged.

Ignorance of the law is not an adequate defense. All hunters are expected to know about game laws, and must obey these laws. If you disagree with a hunting law you are still required to obey it. However you can contact your government representative to discuss your concerns. If a hunting law is unclear, contact the responsible government agency for explanation and clarification.