A Canadian Forces colonel allegedly fired at “protected wildlife” from a boat in Ontario while carrying a .22 rifle and a revolver on Aug. 25, according to court documents.
Col. Leif Dahl is scheduled for a first appearance in Belleville court Thursday.
The court documents outline the eight charges he’s facing, including obstructing a police officer, hunting a bird without a licence and allegedly using the rifle in a “careless manner.”
The colonel has been temporarily removed from his role as commander of 8 Wing and Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
Provincial police say following Dahl’s arrest, two guns were fished out of the water.
‘Extremely bizarre’ situation
It’s a case that’s left observers with questions, including Rory Fowler, a former military lawyer now in private practice.
“It just seems extremely bizarre that a senior member of the Canadian Forces, who one would assume is going to be a mature, well-educated, responsible individual is going to be the subject of these allegations,” said Fowler, who is not involved in the court matter.
“What was he thinking?”
A request for comment sent to the colonel’s email address received an automatic response saying he’d been temporarily reassigned.
Brandon Crawford, the lawyer representing Dahl, said Wednesday they are waiting for disclosure from the Crown and have no comment at this time.
The documents outlining the colonel’s charges said he had a “rifle and revolver, for a purpose dangerous to public peace,” during that day on the Murray Canal.
Fowler said based on the calibre of the rifle and description of the handgun, he’s “reasonably confident” they most likely weren’t military-issue.
“These are probably firearms that were his own firearms, that they were lawfully owned,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence (DND) said the Canadian Armed Forces use a variety of guns, but members are not issued “personal firearms,” such as a .22 rifle or revolver.
The department declined to say more about the weapons that were used or where they came from, as the investigation is ongoing.
2 guns recovered from canal
One of the guns was found at the bottom of the canal on Aug. 25.
Dahl, 45, was initially charged with obstructing a police officer, careless use of a firearm and three violations of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act: using a firearm carelessly to hunt, hunting a bird without a licence and having a loaded firearm in a conveyance.
Three days after the incident, police searched a home in Belleville where they found three long guns stored in a “careless manner,” according to court documents.
Police divers also returned and discovered a second gun in the waterway.
Investigators announced three more charges for Dahl on Aug. 30: possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, careless storage of a firearm and breaching firearms regulations by transporting a firearm or restricted weapon.
The court documents don’t provide further detail about the revolver, but Fowler said anyone who legally owns a handgun in Canada undergoes training and would be aware of strict regulations that limit where the firearms can be transported.
Then there’s the fact Dahl is a member of the military.
“It’s very strange that somebody who has had adequate training in the possession, the use of firearms, is going to … use a restricted firearm … in a manner that’s not consistent with the law,” said the lawyer.
Fowler said that strangeness extends to the allegation the colonel also “fired at some sort of bird or waterfowl.”
Police have declined to say what sort of wildlife was targeted.
Charges will impact colonel’s career
DND previously confirmed by email that the Royal Canadian Air Force was aware of a “hunting-related incident” on Aug. 25 involving Dahl
In a separate statement, Maj.-Gen. Iain Huddleston, commander of 1 Canadian Air Division, said it happened while the colonel was on leave.
That statement also announced Dahl had been temporarily removed from command and described the situation as a “difficult time.”
Fowler said being found guilty of serious criminal offences can result in Canadian Forces members being released from the military.
Regardless of the outcome, he said these charges will leave a mark on Dahl.
“Even if he is not released from the Canadian Forces as a result of a conviction, it’s certainly going to have an impact on his career,” Fowler said.
“It will pretty much halt any career advancement.”