Canadian National Railway Company fined $2.5 million for Fisheries Act offence

From: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) enforces laws that protect Canada’s air, water, and natural environment.

On September 15, 2021, Canadian National Railway Company (CN Rail) pleaded guilty in Prince Rupert Provincial Court to a charge of violating subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act in relation to the deposit of pesticides in or around waters frequented by fish. The company was fined $2.5 million, which will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

On August 28, 2017, ECCC enforcement officers observed a spray truck discharging a mist as it travelled along the rail corridor between Terrace and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. Because the rail corridor runs along the Skeena River and over many tributaries and wetlands, officers conducted an inspection to verify compliance with the Fisheries Act. The subsequent inspection and investigation confirmed that the pesticides sprayed along the rail line were deleterious (harmful) to fish.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

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Quick facts

  • ECCC led an investigation into the incident and worked in cooperation with the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service. On May 27, 2021, CN Rail pleaded guilty to one violation under the provincial Integrated Pest Management Act.

  • Herbicides, a type of pesticide, are used as part of vegetation management plans to remove undesirable plants. When incorrectly applied, these substances can migrate to watercourses and adversely impact fish and fish habitat.

  • ECCC is responsible for administering and enforcing the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances, such as pesticides, into water frequented by fish.

  • Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by ECCC. The Fund ensures that court‑awarded penalties are used to support projects that will benefit the environment.

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