Canada: When Fines Are Just The Beginning

On February 29, 2016 a judge of the British Columbia Provincial Court ordered Teck Metals Ltd. to pay a $3 Million penalty.  Teck had pleaded guilty to three offences under the Fisheries Act.  The offences related to multiple incidents that had resulted in the discharge of approximately 125,000,000 litres of deleterious effluent into the Columbia River.  At various times the effluent contained potentially harmful levels of copper, cadmium, chlorine or ammonia or were acidic.  The discharges took place between November 28, 2013 and February 5, 2015.

Under the plea arrangement, the $3 Million penalty was directed to the Federal Government's Environmental Damages Fund, to be used for fish habitat and fisheries restoration projects in the area watersheds.  Priority is given to restoration projects that address the damages caused by the discharges. 

"Wow", one might say, "$3 Million is serious coin."  The fine was just the tip of the iceberg for Teck.  As part of the plea arrangement, Teck also agreed to undertake a series of on-site improvement projects in part designed to prevent future releases of deleterious substances into the area watersheds.  According to the media release from Environment and Climate Change Canada, implementation of these upgrades will set Teck back another $50 Million, making the fine look like a rounding error.

The point to be learned is that when it comes to environmental protection (and workplace safety and health) legislation, the initial fine is only the starting place when assessing the cost of noncompliance.  There are a whole raft of other considerations in designing compliance measure and responding to charges if laid.  Most federal and provincial environmental and safety legislation provide for most, if not all, of the following judicial remedies.


Everyone knows that when there is a spill on land it has to be cleaned-up.  This is not an inexpensive proposition.  What if the release has entered waterways?  What if it has gone on for decades?  What if the spill arises out of a catastrophic event, like the Mount Polley tailings impoundment failure?  The cost of rectifying the consequences associated with the commission of an offence will often greatly exceed the amount of any penalty that might be imposed.

Disgorgement of Profits

If the Crown proves that noncompliance with the law saved the offender money, then it is open to the Crown to argue that those savings should be paid over in addition to the fine.  Judges and the public are very fond of the old saying, "Cheaters never prosper".

Prohibitions Against Indemnification

Corporations provide their officers with indemnity agreements.  Legislation in Canada also allows corporations to indemnify officers against penalties and claims when the officers take actions in good faith and for the best interests of the corporation.  Some courts have attempted to circumvent these arrangements by writing judgments and orders that specifically prohibit the corporation from indemnifying an officer who has been found guilty of the commission of an offence.  Those orders might not stand up on appeal, but who wants to take the chance.

Facility Shut-down

Some legislation allows the courts to order the convicted business (in addition to any fine or other penalty) to "take such action as may be necessary to refrain from committing any further offence . . . or from causing further environmental damage."  These types of prevention orders can specify the actions that must be taken in order to stop or prevent further pollution.  They can require modifications to processes, installation of pollution prevention equipment, implementation of environmental management systems, etc.  In a cost-competitive world of mobile capital, this kind of order could force a shut-down.


The federal government and most provinces and territories maintain some form of environmental registry.  Conviction may result in the addition of your company name to the "naughty list", for all the world to see.  Publicly traded entities will also typically include descriptions of significant fines or enforcement proceedings as part of continuous disclosure and in any corporate environmental reports.  All of this is great ammunition for objectors when it is time to start that next development.

Escalation of Remedies

It is becoming more and more common to see minimum statutory fines escalate dramatically for second and subsequent offences.  Couple that with the fact that most environmental legislation specifies that every day that a continuing offence continues (one in which the subject matter of the offence lasts for more than twenty-four hours) constitutes a separate offence, and the fines can stack up quickly.  Ever wonder why someone would spend $20,000 in legal and expert fees to fight a $500 ticket?  Preventing the fine escalator from kicking in the next time around is a significant consideration in deciding how to deal with a charge.

Alternative Measures

It is not all doom and gloom.  Some federal legislation specifically allows for diversion of charges to an alternative measures program.  This usually involves a negotiated arrangement under which  money (sometimes more than what the fine would have been) is paid into an environmental protection fund or to local organizations for environmental protection, education or enhancement projects.  What turns some corporations away from this option is that they usually require the corporation to admit the facts that gave rise to the charge.


There are plenty of reasons to ensure that your organization complies with environmental and safety laws.  The best reason is that it is right thing to do.  If you or your board or your management need more tangible reasons, just remember all of the possible outcomes that can come with noncompliance.

This article was originally written for, and published in Mid-Canada Forestry and Mining magazine and is reproduced with permission.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.