Canada: Majority Of Northern Environmental Prosecutions Resulting In Fines Are Under Fisheries Act

Last Updated: February 13 2018
Article by Joanna Vince

Since 2000, nearly all of the environmental charges and fines that companies have faced in the North have been brought under the federal Fisheries Act.1 Most charges resulted from the deposition of harmful substances into water frequented by fish. The fines for these offences ranged from $1,000 to $75,000 per charge, exclusive of additional financial penalties, which ranged from $25,000 to $425,000.

There are several principles of sentencing that are unique to the North. Northern companies should ensure that they are operating in compliance with the Fisheries Act to maintain a good environmental record and avoid financial penalty.

Northwest Territories

Three corporations have been charged and fined for releasing harmful substances into water frequented by fish in the NWT since 2000, contrary to the Fisheries Act, s. 36(3):

" In 2011, Imperial Oil Resources NWT Ltd. was charged with releasing NALCO 7390, an anti-corrosive agent, into the Mackenzie River. Imperial Oil was fined $5,000 with an additional penalty of $155,000 to be used to promote the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat in the NWT.2

" In 2011, Northwest Territories Power Corp. was charged when vegetation, earth, and permafrost soils were released into Strutt Lake after a dyke breached at its hydroelectric station reservoir.3 The company was fined $25,000 with an additional penalty of $425,000 to be spent on the conservation and protection of fish and habitat in the NWT.4 The fine reflects the fact that (1) damage was caused to fish and fish habitat, (2) a smaller fine would have not have deterred the company from offending again because of its large net income, (3) the company took quick action to respond to the deposition, and (4) the company was committed to dealing with the offence, as evidenced by CEO's presence at the company's hearing.

  • In 2000, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation band corporation was charged when it deposited construction waste on the shoreline of Back Bay on Great Slave Lake.5 The band corporation was ultimately fined $63,000. The fine reflects the court's disapproval at the "calculated risk" taken by the band corporation in dumping the waste for expedience and convenience.6

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation band corporation was also charged with altering, disrupting and destroying fish habitat, contrary to under the Fisheries Act, s. 35(1).


In Nunavut, three corporations have been charged and fined under the Fisheries Act, s. 36(3) since 2000:

  •  In 2013, Hope Bay Mining Ltd. and Orbit Garant Drilling Inc. were charged with releasing drill cuttings, mud and brine on an ongoing basis from a drill rig connected to Stickleback Lake and Spyder Lake.7 The companies were each fined $75,000 to be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.
  •  In 2003, Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. deposited fuel oil into fish bearing water of the Crozier Strait while transferring the oil between tanks.8 The company was fined $5,000 with an additional penalty of $25,000 to be directed to the conservation of fish and fish habitat in Nunavut.
  •  In 2002, the City of Iqaluit was charged when raw sewage was discharged from the City's lift stations into the Koojesse inlet.9 The City was fined a total of $100,000 to be directed partially to the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat in Nunavut, and partially to operational improvements for the City sewage system to prevent future offences.

Most recently, in 2017, Agnico Eagle Metals was charged under the Fisheries Act, s. 38(4) for failing to notify an inspector following the deposition of tailings from the Meadowbank Gold Mine into an adjacent water body that resulted in serious harm to fish.10 The company was fined $50,000 and added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Environmental Sentencing Principles in the North

There are several principles of sentencing that are unique to the North. When determining the size of a fine, or whether to divert fine/penalties into conservation projects11, Northern courts often consider and balance the following principles:

  • Environmental damage can have greater significance in the North due to the fragile northern environment.12 Environmental penalties should reflect the risk of persistent damage and the fact that reclamation is more expensive in the north.13
  • Northern environments have social, cultural, and spiritual value to Indigenous groups in the North. Impact to Indigenous interests in the environment may be taken as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.14
  • Resource development is important to the Northern economy and good corporate citizens should be encouraged to operate in the North. Financial penalties should not be disproportionate to those in the south, after making allowances for the northern context.15

What Does This Mean For Companies Operating In The North?

i. Sentencing considerations are different in the North, with additional aggravating factors.

ii. For parties operating in the North, it is important to ensure steps are taken to prevent spills, discharges, or deposits to waters containing fish or fish habitat. Due diligence practices may need to be heightened to recognize Northern environmental realities and sensitivities.

iii. Fines in the North are lower than for similar offences in the provinces.

The Crown and Courts may also seek additional payments towards the Environmental Damages Fund or other environmental or remediation projects depending.


1 RSC, 1985, c F-14 [Fisheries Act].

2 Note that the defendant was also charged with violating a condition of its water license under the NWT Waters Act, s. 40(2)(a) and fined an additional $25,000 under that Act. Environment Canada, online:; Imperial Oil Resources NWT Ltd., in the Prosecution and Defence of Environmental Offences, by Stanley D. Berger and Johnathan Myers, 2011 Carswell 225.

3 R. v Northwest Territories Power Corp. 2011 CarswellNWT 7.

4 Pursuant to the Fisheries Act, s. 72.2(f).

5 R v Beaulieu 2000 CarswellNWT 3; R v Beaulieu 2001 CarswellNWT 47, 2001 NWTSC 46 [Beaulieu]; R v Yellowknives Dene First Nation 2000 CarswellNWT 22, 2000 NWTTC 2 [Dene First Nation].

6 Beaulieu and Dene First Nation.

7 Environment Canada, online

8 R v Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. 2003 Carswell 94; R v Teck Cominco Metals Ltd 2003 NUCJ 5 [Teck].

9 R. v Iqaluit (City) 2002 CarswellNun 1, 2002 NUCJ 1 [Iqaluit].

10 Environment Canada, online

11 See Fisheries Act, s. 40(6), all fines received for the commission of offences under the Fisheries Act are credited to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) and used for purposes related to conservation and protection of fish or fish habitat or the restoration of fish habitat, or for administering the EDF.

12 Teck at para 74.

13 Iqaluit at para 8-9.

14 Iqaluit at para 8-9; R v Kenaston Drilling (Arctic) Ltd. 1973 CarswellNWT 20, [1973] NWTJ No 1 at para 12.

15 Teck at para 90.

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.

Joanna Vince
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions