When will Ontario courts refuse to impose minimum environmental fines?

Now that mandatory minimum environmental fines are so high, courts occasionally refuse to impose them.  For example, in R v. KIE Farms Ltd., a justice of the peace refused to impose a $25,000 minimum fine on a local farm, even though seepage from its corn silo made a local  watercourse toxic to fish.

The company pleaded guilty to discharging silage seepage into an agricultural drain, contravening the  Ontario Water Resources Act.  The silage seepage made the drain water black-coloured and smelly.  Total ammonia concentrations exceeded acute lethality levels for fish, and high BOD and phosphorus levels were found.

The Court has discretion under s. 59(2) of the Provincial Offences Act to refuse to impose a minimum fine.  The Court considered that specific deterrence was not required, noting the company’s quick actions to mitigate,  at a cost of over $500,000.  The company had cooperated with the MOE, acknowledged its fault and shown remorse. The business was well-run, with a strong community relationship and respect for the environment.  Nor was there  proof of actual harm to aquatic life.

Fine imposed: $8000 + VFS.

In another example,  R. v. Conrad Larocque, a Justice of the peace refused to impose the $5000 minimum penalty on an individual who spilled oil from a waste oil tank, initially hid it and lost his job as a result. Mr. Larocque showed remorse, worked long hours to clean up the spill, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, had suffered embarrassment in his community, and was unemployed and receiving social assistance. Penalty: Suspended sentence