Attorney General stays sewage prosecution, Chapman v. BC

Attorney General stays sewage prosecution, Chapman v. BC, GVRD & GVSDD

December 8th, 2008

Fraser Riverkeeper Doug Chapman

On November 18, 2008, the Attorney General of Canada ordered a “stay” in the private prosecution investigated by Doug Chapman, now the Fraser Riverkeeper, who worked with the Georgia Strait Alliance, the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (CAW).

The prosecution, Ecojustice, argued the city of Vancouver and the BC government violated the Canadian Fisheries Act by allowing the release of barely treated sewage into the Georgia Strait from the Iona Sewage Treatment Plant.

Almost a billion juvenile salmon have to pass through this area annually.  In 2005, testing revealed chemicals released from Iona included heavy concentrations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Ammonia, Mercury, Zinc, Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead and Copper – all of which are toxic to fish.

The Attorney General (AG) brought the private prosecution to an end in mid-November after a two-year battle in the courts. In Canadian law people have the right to initiate a private prosecution when an individual or group gathers evidence of a wrongdoing. They lay charges with approval from a Provincial Court Judge. However, the federal Attorney General’s Office retains the right to:

  • Intervene and “stay” the case (an indefinite suspension only the AG can restart); or
  • Intervene and conduct the following: call witnesses, examine and cross-examine, present evidence, and make submissions

“I am disgusted that the federal government has ended this prosecution,” Chapman told local media. “What’s the point of the law? Polluters get off scot-free.”

Doug Chapman is one of Canada’s most experienced environmental prosecutors, with numerous high-profile convictions in Ontario, including the first ever jail-sentence for an environmental criminal.

How the case came to such strange end is the subject of this week’s Living at the Barricades.

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