• We apologize for the somewhat convoluted sign-up process. Due to ever-more sophisticated attacks by chatbots, we had to increase our filtering in order to weed out AI while letting humans through. It's a nuisance, but a necessary one in order to keep the level of discourse on the forums authentic and useful. From the actual humans using WCP, thanks for your understanding!

Kayakers charged with breaking Parks Canada, wildlife laws in Nunavut


Jan 24, 2010
Quadra Island, BC
This just came in my news feed. Absolutely new information to me. I haven't been paying attention to the "adventure media" for a while.

Additional info:


Last edited:
The real crime is those hats:


Making assumptions here, as we never get a lot of info from articles. But my thoughts...

From the second article, it sounds like they were informed a permit was needed and tried to get one, but didn't, yet went ahead anyway. They got caught, so deserve some sort of ticket. Even if their route had no other options and required them to go through this.

But it seems to me that the area they were in was polar bear country, so ticketing them for having guns seems a bit excessive (assuming the guns were for defensive purposes - if they were hunting birds in this bird sanctuary to feed themselves along the way, that is a much different story).
> The real crime is those hats:
Does that photo imply two people per cockpit? Seems a little kinky. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The PaddleMag article (Interview with West Hansen) provides more information about the circumstances of the expedition, though slanted from their perspective. Yes, they paddled in two doubles.

My thinking follows roughly the same tracks as @Peter-CKM. I do not believe these people were acting in bad faith, just focused on the requirements of the expedition. At the same time, I can also understand the authorities being compelled to enforce the regulations because letting these guys go means letting any other yahoo go as well.

I will quote Captain Shaw in the final season of Star Trek: Picard, "If you had to break the rules [to do the right thing], maybe the rules were broken to begin with."

PS: The current discussion about paddling the Pacific Rim National Park segment of the Vancouver Island circumnavigation was very much on my mind when I saw this situation come up in my news feed.
I'm astonished that the kayakers were caught. Bylot Island is the back of beyond. The island has an undeveloped, arctic coastline hundreds of miles in circumference. The nearest town of any size, Pond Inlet, is almost 15 miles (24 km) from Bylot Island, on the far side of a deep-water channel that is choked with ice most of the year. The kayakers should have been totally invisible this deep into the wilderness. How on earth did the police find them?

The articles say the police "arrested, interviewed and released a group of sea kayakers in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut." Cambridge Bay is well over 600 miles (900 km) from Bylot Island as the helicopter flies, and much farther than that by water. Surely, the police did not transport the kayakers such a long distance just to interrview them. The arrest itself must have occurred in Cambridge Bay. But if that is so, how did the police in Cambridge Bay know about the kayakers' trespassing and camping and gun-toting all the way back on Bylot Island?

Could the kayakers have inadvertently triggered a police investigation when they asked about the permitting process for Bylot Island? If so, that is a strong disincentive to ask agencies about permitting, because you will only encourage them to scrutinize your proposed trip—and they will have learned your itinerary from your questions about permitting! They will know right where to find you!

Were the police following the kayakers' online trip reports? If so, that is a strong disincentive to write trip reports, because you will be handing agencies a signed confession! With photographs of you in a cowboy hat!

I normally avoid the comments on content posted on web news (a key exception being the Ars Technica community). However, the comments on the ExplorersWeb article includes an exchange between Adam Riley (who made his own attempt at the NWP) and the author of the article Ash Routen. Definitely worth reading down past the sturm und drang.

Ash points out that Adam made the effort to get the necessary permits and his documents were available for review on Nunavut Territory public websites - whereas the Arctic Cowboys expedition documents were just not there.

The fact that other expeditions were able to get their documentation in place says this is a hazard of this particular challenge that can be met (unlike our situation where Parks Canada just won't play ball). If you can plan and execute a 5 month arctic expedition with no resupply, you can get your permitting.
Well, here we go again. Further to what AlphEcho posted above:

The article Top 10 Expeditions of 2023. #2: Kayaking the Northwest Passage states this was their second attempt at this trip having aborted the first in 2022. It also states: "A snowmobile from Pond Inlet conveyed them to their starting point at the eastern end of Bylot Island, just north of Baffin Island." A search provided this map of Inuit Owned Lands that shows that the southeast tip of Bylot Island is marked as Inuit Owned Land. I am engaging in conjecture here, but I would suspect that an Inuit likely transported them and their gear from Pond Inlet to the cabin on Bylot Island where they were waiting for the ice to clear for two weeks.

Bylot Island was designated a Bird Sanctuary in 1965 and became a a part of Sirmilik National Park, Hence both the National Park Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Migratory Birds Sanctuary Regulations apply to this case. In addition, the Inuit have a role to play in reviewing applications for use permits in conjunction with Parks Canada.

I will also note that the Park Headquarter is in Pond Inlet. There is also an RCMP Detachment in Pond Inlet. The Park website has a page titled Plan Your Visit that provides pretty much all the information and links for someone who does their due diligence in planning a trip.

The Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada is the actual primary management authority for the Bird Sanctuary and also maintains a web page that goes into detail on access to the Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. So two thoughts here: yes a complex bureaucracy, but also a sensitive ecology and a heavily protected area. The web pages I have linked make it clear that permits must be applied for and obtained, and that it is not a quick and easy process.

If you can plan and execute a 5 month arctic expedition with no resupply, you can get your permitting.

As AlphEcho says above, this should not have been something neglected or overlooked, especially if it was a second attempt at the trip. I also agree that I find it impossible to understand why one can in fact get a permit to kayak camp in this arctic sanctuary, yet not in Pacific Rim National Park?

As for how did the authorities find out about this trip? Pond Inlet is a very small community. An expedition such as this would attract notice and comment. No doubt the Park Wardens heard about it, knew that permits were not obtained and likely went directly to the person or persons who took the group out to the cabin on the Island. The article also states that they turned off their tracking devices while on Bylot Island, that would seem to indicate perhaps a bit of an attempt to allude detection.

And yet another wrinkle, the Polar Bears and the firearms question: Most visitors to Canadian Arctic National Parks, cannot obtain a permit to carry a firearm. The list of those who can get such a permit is quite restrictive:

Who may be authorized to carry and use a firearm for protection?

The following categories of park users may be authorized to carry and use firearms for self-protection and the protection of others from bears:
1. Bear monitors - in all national parks to which the provisions apply. Must be beneficiaries (this requirement does not apply in Wapusk National Park).
2. Beneficiary guides - in all national parks to which the provisions apply.
3. Non-beneficiary guides - only in Polar Bear Parks provided beneficiary guides are not available.This requirement does not apply in Wapusk National Park. Non-beneficiary guides can hire bear monitors to provide protection for their clients.
4. Researchers – in Wapusk National Park, and in the other Polar Bear Parks when bear monitors are not available or if it is logistically unfeasible to hire a bear monitor.
5. Local users – in Wapusk National Park. Local users are defined in the Wapusk National Park of Canada Park Use Regulations.6. Commercial sport hunting guides – only Inuvialuit guides who must traverse through Aulavik National Park and Tuktut Nogait National Park or Inuit guides who must traverse through Sirmilik National Park, Auyuittuq National Park or Quttinirpaaq National Park.

7. Members of sovereignty operations – in national parks where an agreement exists between Parks Canada and the Department of National Defence.

The articles quoted note that the group were carrying a firearm for bear protection. That may have been the deal breaker for them with respect to an access permit. Do the trip, at least the Bylot Island leg without a rifle, or hire a guide who is licensed to carry one to accompany them on that leg. Hiring a guide would have been costly. Going without a firearm risky, What to do?

More questions, few answers, but the court trial record should fill out much of the relevant details once the trial is finished. That is if anyone is inclined to obtain them. A very interesting case study for expedition planners to remote locations in arctic Canada. I expect someone on the forum will post an update when a trial is completed.

Cheers, Rick
Well done, Rick. I didn’t realize they had hired a snowmobile into the forbidden zone. It doesn’t exactly need Sherlock Holmes to catch them at that point!

  • Like
Reactions: CPS