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EXTRAORDINARY REMEDIES - Certiorari

Friday, June 21, 2019 @ 6:11 AM  


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Determination of whether 1758691 Ontario Inc.’s application should be permitted to proceed to the next stages. The applicant 1758691 Ontario Inc., operating under the name ATV Farms, was one of Ontario’s largest growers, importers, exporters, and wholesalers of root vegetables. In March 2019, officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) obtained and executed s. 487 Criminal Code search warrants on the applicant’s business premises. The CFIA seized over 50 boxes of documents and made copies of electronic files. The CFIA obtained the search warrants on the basis that it had reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant packaged and marketed vegetables with incorrect country of origin information, which constituted an offence under the Canada Agricultural Products Act and its associated regulations. No charges had yet been laid against the applicant. The applicant sought an order in the nature of certiorari quashing the search warrants and a declaration that its s. 8 Charter rights were infringed. The applicant argued that the CFIA did not have reasonable grounds to believe that any mislabelling offences were committed, and that the Information to Obtain the warrants was materially incomplete and misleading. The respondent Crown opposed the application on various grounds. As a preliminary point, the respondent argued that it would be preferable for the lawfulness and constitutionality of the searches to be determined by the trial judge, in the event that charges were eventually laid against the applicant. The respondent urged the Court to exercise its discretion to decline to hear the application at this time.

HELD: The application was permitted to proceed to the next stages. The applicant was no longer seeking any s. 24(1) remedy that would require the CFIA to return either the originals or copies of the seized documents. The Court would therefore not be called on to make any order that would impede the CFIA’s ongoing investigation by depriving it of the fruits of its search. The CFIA could not avoid having the lawfulness and constitutionality of its search determined at some point. The Court was not persuaded that its investigation would be materially impeded if the ruling were made sooner rather than later. If the applicant could substantiate its claim that the stain on its reputation arising from the CFIA’s investigation caused it to lose sales, the applicant’s goal of obtaining declarative relief as a means of possibly vindicating its reputation and preventing further financial loss would outweigh the potential downside risks of conducting the search warrant review now rather than postponing it until a possible future trial. Furthermore, the Court was not persuaded that allowing the applicant’s certiorari application to proceed would necessarily lead to a flood of similar applications. On balance, the overall interests of justice were better served by permitting the applicant’s claim for Charter relief to proceed to the next litigation stages.

R. v. 1758691 Ontario Inc. (c.o.b. ATV Farms), [2019] O.J. No. 2495, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, J. Dawe J., May 14, 2019. Digest No. TLD-June172019012