Hamilton, Ontario – Guilty Plea
In 1999, Lynda Lukasik, an environmentalist in Hamilton, Ontario, laid charges against the City of Hamilton under the Environmental Protection Act and the federal Fisheries Act for discharging polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toxic ammonia into Red Hill Creek from a city dump. EBI helped Lukasik by gathering evidence, including pollution samples and documents, and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund provided legal representation. The City of Hamilton had apparently known about the problem of leachate leaking from the dump into the creek for years. After the charges were laid, the Ministry of the Environment told the city that it “was required to take the necessary remedial measures to eliminate the seepage of wastes into the Creek,” and the city began a remediation plan. The private prosecution and a separate charge laid by the Ministry of the Environment resulted in fines totalling $450,000 – the largest fines for an environmental crime ever levied against a municipality in Canada
Kingston, Ontario – City Convicted
In 1996, EBI assisted Janet Fletcher, an environmental activist and a member of EBI’s advisory board, and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (now called Ecojustice) in investigating a closed, city-owned landfill in Kingston, Ontario, that was leaching contaminants into the Cataraqui River. In 1998, the city was convicted on seven counts of violating the federal Fisheries Act. The case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which upheld three of the seven convictions in 2003. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada turned down the City of Kingston’s request to appeal its convictions. Despite the city’s resistance to a full clean-up, a number of positive impacts emerged from the prosecution. In March 1997, the day after the charges were laid against it for contaminating the river, the city sent earthmoving equipment to begin cleaning up the site. Kingston has also begun cleaning up other sites, including a notorious coal tar site.
The Kingston case was a precedent-setting one for Ontario and should make it easier in the future to prosecute polluters and enforce environmental laws. Under the federal Fisheries Act, establishing a pollutant as a “deleterious substance” is enough to earn a conviction, which means prosecutors didn’t have to prove that the contaminants pouring into the Cataraqui River were toxic to the fish in that river; all they had to do was show that the contaminants concerned were toxic to fish.
Deloro Mine Site – Government Aquitted
In 1997, EBI’s Janet Fletcher and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund laid eight charges against the Ontario government under the federal Fisheries Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act for allowing toxic substances, including arsenic and other heavy metals, to pour out of the abandoned Deloro Mine site into the Moira River and its tributary, Young’s Creek. The charges were the first ever brought by private citizens against the province. The following year, Thomas Adams, another EBI advisory panel member, laid an additional charge against the province for radioactive pollution. In 2001, the province was acquitted based on the defence that it had exercised due diligence in planning to remediate the site. The prosecution did succeed in prompting the Ontario government to take some long overdue protective actions, such as posting signs and fencing the highly contaminated site to protect the public, as well as deer and other game, from the arsenic and radioactive pollution. In December 2004, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released its plan for a cleanup, announcing it would spend another $30 to $40 million on cleaning up the Deloro site.