UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

The University of British Columbia has lost its appeal of convictions and heavy fines related to the dumping of chemicals into a tributary of the Fraser River.

The convictions under the Fisheries Act will carry a penalty of more than $1.5 million.

The offences occurred in September 2014 when, according to court documents, a CIMCO Refrigeration mechanic at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena discharged an ammonia-containing solution into a storm sewer that eventually drained into Blooming Ground Creek.

Acting on public complaints of an strong ammonia odour, Environment Canada investigators collected water samples from a ditch leading to the creek that contained ammonia concentrations exceeding amounts toxic to fish by 304 times.

In the following two days 70 dead fish were found in the creek.

READ MORE: UBC fined for releasing chemicals into Fraser River tributary

Following a 15-day trial in 2018 CIMCO pleaded guilty to depositing a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish, and was fined $800,000.

Because the arena’s chief engineer was present during the discharge, the university was also culpable. UBC was convicted on two of four charges under the Fisheries Act, including a failure to notify officials of the occurrence, with a combined fine of $1.55 million.

UBC lawyers appealed the conviction on the grounds of circumstantial evidence, conceding the ammonia in the ditch originated from the school, but citing a lack of testing to prove amounts lethal to fish had leaked into the creek.

In her reasons for judgement, Madam Justice Neena Sharma upheld the trial judge’s original decision.

“UBC is correct that there was no direct evidence as to the precise concentration of ammonia in the Creek,”Sharma wrote. “Instead, the trial judge had a large amount of uncontroverted evidence as to the presence and concentration of ammonia in the ditch. Based on that evidence and common sense, the judge inferred that the ammonia entered the Creek in an amount sufficient to be deleterious to fish.”

The trial for UBC and CIMCO was originally scheduled to conclude in one month, but scheduling conflicts between the two parties and the Crown prolonged the process by more than one year. UBC’s lawyers sought a stay of proceedings under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be tried under a reasonable amount of time but the trial judge ruled against the application, which UBC appealed.

READ MORE: Trucking company fined $175K for Lemon Creek fuel spill

The appellate court sided with the Crown’s position, stating in part that the scheduling conflict was unavoidable and could not reasonably have been remedied. The Crown also argued UBC was complacent about the delays and did not seek to expedite the proceedings.

UBC also unsuccessfully appealed the sentence, asking for a reduced fine of $350,000 on the basis they should be penalized less than CIMCO.

“The trial judge appropriately took into account factors justifying a greater sentence for UBC than for CIMCO. UBC was convicted of a more serious offense so its culpability was higher. Also, CIMCO pleaded guilty and agreed to a joint submission, which conserved public resources,” Sharma wrote.

“Ammonia is a well-known noxious substance and an enormous amount was discharged into the storm sewer. UBC knew of the importance of pollution prevention into storm sewers and could not explain why it had not extended its own policies to the arena. The pollution was so extreme that people passing by the watercourse immediately noticed its impact on the air, and many fish died.

The Crown originally sought fines totalling $3 million against UBC.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
RDN Transit has sights set on busing to Cowichan Valley by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in the budget

Parking decals for motorcycles owned by riders with disabilities are now available from the Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre. (Photo submitted)
Motorcycle decals now available in Nanaimo for disabled riders

Limited number of decals now available from the Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre

Ceramic artist Teresa Dorey with some of the pieces from her upcoming exhibition, ‘Einfühlung: Feeling Into,’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts Studio and Gallery. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Ceramic artist explores ideas around empathy and touch in Nanaimo exhibition

Montreal’s Teresa Dorey presents ‘Einfühlung: Feeling Into’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts

Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is the recipient of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Emerging Cultural Leader. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is the recipient of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Emerging Cultural Leader. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Multi-disciplinary Snuneymuxw artist named ‘Emerging Cultural Leader’

Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo mixed-use building wins top prize at commercial building awards

Village on Third was Judges’ Choice winner at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo mixed-use building wins top prize at commercial building awards

Village on Third was Judges’ Choice winner at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike grounds Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Nanaimo author Haley Healey recently launched her second book, ‘Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)
Nanaimo author pens second book on ‘trailblazing’ Vancouver Island women

Haley Healey’s ‘Flourishing and Free’ follows her 2020 debut ‘On Their Own Terms’

Most Read