Bruce McMeekin Law

Fisheries Act Violations: Landowner and Two Logging Contractors Fined a Total of $600,000 and Ordered to pay $1.6 Million Towards the Protection of Fish Habitat

The streams on Graham Island, located in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), are home to pristine habitat for juvenile salmonids including Coho salmon. In 2010, the owner of a parcel of land proximate to some of these streams contracted with two local companies for logging and road construction. Despite their experience, the contractors proceeded without a harvesting plan causing substantial damage to nearby fisheries habitat. In 2015, after an eleven day trial, the three co-defendants were each convicted of twenty counts of harmful alteration to fisheries habitat contrary to ss.35(1) of the Fisheries Act (the “Act”).

In his Reasons for Sentence, released on January 9, 2017, the trial judge found that the contractors had made little if no effort to complete the work in manner that minimized the risk of environmental damage. The principals of the landowner were less at fault but nevertheless had failed to properly supervise the work to ensure compliance with the Act. The result was “cataclysmic” damage.

This case is noteworthy not only for the size of the penalties but also because of the methodical application of s.718.21 of the Criminal Code setting out the additional sentencing factors that need to be considered for corporate and other “organization” offenders. In addition, the trial judge takes an interesting approach in distinguishing between ss.79 (revenue-stripping) and 79.2 of the Act, finding that that although the monetary benefits arising from the offences can be included as part of the levied fines, they are irrelevant to the calculation of the amounts payable as rehabilitation.