Canada: Small Fines; Big Consequences

Last Updated: August 22 2016
Article by Donna S.K. Shier

Individuals and corporations considering pleading guilty and paying a small fine instead of appealing a charge should be aware of the hidden costs of their decision. The consequences of second and subsequent environmental offence convictions can be much more onerous.

The following examples from July 2016 illustrate a trend toward smaller fines in exchange for guilty pleas:

Individual or Corporation Act prosecuted under Penalty Time to Pay Fine
Individual Ontario Water Resources Act, RSO 1990, c O.40 ("OWRA") $1,750 plus a victim fine surcharge of $437.50 and $5 for court costs1 3 months
Individual OWRA $3,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $7502 6 months
Company Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 32 ("SDWA") $5,500 plus a victim fine surcharge of $1,3753 12 months
Company Environmental Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E.19 ("EPA") $9,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $2,2504 90 days
Company and Company Director Waste Diversion Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 6 ("WDA")
  • Company was fined $25,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $6,250
  • Company director was fined $5,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $1,2505
2 years for both company and company director.
Company Pesticides Act, RSO 1990, c P.11 $3,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $7506 12 months
Company Nutrient Management Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 4 $4,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $1,0007 90 days

These small fines can carry big consequences. Subsequent convictions carry much harsher penalties such as increased fines, imprisonment, and mandatory minimum fines.

Under most environmental statutes, the maximum fine increases significantly for subsequent convictions. For example, under the OWRA, a fine for an individual's first conviction has a $50,000 maximum. The maximum fine jumps to $100,000 on subsequent conviction.8

Penalties for subsequent convictions can include imprisonment. The Pesticides Act, the OWRA, the SDWA, and the EPA allow courts to sentence second time offenders to imprisonment on subsequent conviction.

Mandatory minimum fines are available under the OWRA and the EPA for a second offence that is a "more serious offence". For example, under the EPA, a corporation convicted of certain offences will face a fine not less than $50,000 on second and subsequent conviction.9

Individuals and corporations should also be aware that previous convictions do not have to be under the same statute to trigger these increased penalties. The Pesticides Act, the Nutrient Management Act, the OWRA, the SDWA, and the EPA all allow courts to look to convictions under different statutes when determining the number of previous convictions.10

These small penalties for environmental offences place persons facing environmental prosecution in a very difficult situation. The fines are so small that those charged must be very reluctant to bear the expense of an appeal, but the consequences for future charges can be severe.

Footnotes

1. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change ("MOECC"), Court Bulletin, "Individual Fined $5,000 For Well Water Violations" (6 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

2. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Company Owner Fined $3,000 For Well Water Violation" (6 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

3. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Company Fined $5,500 For Water Violations" (6 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

4. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Toronto Company Fined $9,000 For Environmental Violations" (6 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca). 

5. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Toronto Company Fined $30,000 For Non-compliance" (6 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

6. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Lancaster Golf Course Fined $3,000 For Pesticides Violations" (18 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

7. MOECC, Court Bulletin, "Farm Fined $4,000 For Nutrient Management Act Violations" (18 July 2016), online: Ontario (news.ontario.ca).

8. Ontario Water Resource Act, RSO 1990, c O.40, s 108(1) [OWRA].

9. Environmental Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E.19, s 187(4) [EPA].

10. Pesticides Act, RSO 1990, c P.11, s 45(4); Nutrient Management Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 4, s 48(3); OWRA, supra note 8 at s 110; Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 32, s 144; EPA, supra note 9 at s 188. 

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.

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