Private prosecution backgrounder
The Provincial Offences Act allows any citizen to initiate a private prosecution if they believe, on reasonable and probable grounds, that a person has committed an offence under Ontario law.
Ecojustice has used this safeguard successfully in the past.
In 2009, Ecojustice worked with a citizen informant to launch a private prosecution against Syncrude for the deaths of 1,600 ducks that landed on the company’s toxic tailings ponds. Initially, both provincial and federal regulators said they would hold Syncrude accountable. But as time passed it became clear that they wouldn’t prosecute the company.
Once the private prosecution was launched, Alberta quickly took over the case and the provincial and federal governments laid their own charges. Syncrude was eventually found guilty and ordered to pay three million dollars – the largest fine for an environmental crime in Canadian history.
De Beers’ Victor Diamond Mine, 90 km upstream of the community of Attawapiskat, is the first major industrial intrusion into the Hudson Bay Lowland, a globally significant ecosystem in Ontario, Canada. It is comprised of intact wetlands and forests, carbon rich peatlands, clean, undammed waters and habitat for continentally important populations of wildlife such as caribou, wolverine and lake sturgeon. It is the ancestral lands of many indigenous communities.
There is the potential for at least 15 more open pit mines to be built here thereby adding more pressures to the receiving lands and waters around the mine site. Wildlands League is taking the step of initiating a private prosecution because Ontario failed to enforce its own law. Industry must be held to account to ensure the environment is protected and monitoring programs have integrity. Wildlands League and Ecojustice are taking this action to protect the public interest.