The federal government has won an appeal in the Lemon Creek pollution case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
That means that Calgary company Executive Flight Centre will have to go to trial after all and defend itself against several charges under the the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Management Act.
In an October 2017 trial, provincial court Judge Lisa Mrozinski withdrew the charges against Executive Flight Centre, the owner of a vehicle that spilled 33,000 litres of fuel into Lemon Creek in 2013, triggering a local evacuation.
Mrozinski did this because it had taken the Crown prosecution too long to bring the case to court. The crown appealed the judgment.
The appeal hearing was held in Kamloops in June, and the written decision of Justice Sheri Ann Donegan was released last week.
The decision is largely concerned with the interpretation of Jordan decision, a legal rule created in 2016 to discourage delays in the court system.
The principle states that a delay of more than 18 months between a charge being laid and the beginning of a trial denies an accused person the right to a fair trial under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In the Lemon Creek case, the date that the 18 months began is in question, and was one of the main disputed issues before the judge.
The judge ordered a new trial, for which a date has not yet been set.
At the October 2017 trial – the one at which the charges against Executive Flight Centre were withdrawn – there were two other defendants: the provincial government and the fuel truck driver Danny LaSante.
Those two defendants did not try to convince the judge that there had been too much delay and so the trial went ahead. LaSante was convicted (he has not yet been sentenced) and the provincial government was aquitted. These decisions stand and are not affected by the events described above.
Also, the court processes described above are not related to a class action suit being undertaken by Robert Kirk on behalf of all the residents of the Lemon Creek area for damages incurred by the spill.