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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION - Offences and enforcement - Civil procedure

Friday, March 10, 2017 @ 8:45 AM  


Appeal by the Workers’ Compensation Board from the dismissal of its application for a contempt finding against Seattle, Mike Singh and Shawn Singh. Shawn was in the asbestos survey business while Mike and his company, Seattle, were in the asbestos abatement business. These businesses were highly regulated. In 2012, the Board obtained an order requiring their compliance with applicable legislation and regulations based on significant non-compliance. In obtaining the order, the Board relied upon 17 incidents in which the Singhs and Seattle had exposed persons to asbestos or had placed persons at risk of exposure. After 51 further alleged breaches, the Board applied for a contempt finding. The Court held that the initial order requiring compliance was overly broad and not sufficiently clear to be enforceable by contempt. The judge noted that the 2012 order was not specific on the date at which it applied, rendering the order capable of different interpretations due to the frequency at which the relevant Act and Regulations were subject to amendment. He also reviewed the Act and Regulations and found them too large and complex for the Singhs and Seattle to be expected to comply with as a whole. The Court rejected allegations of discrimination filed by the Singhs. They argued in their cross-appeal that the judge showed bias against them.

HELD: Appeal allowed and cross-appeal dismissed. The contempt application was returned to the court below for redetermination. The judge erred in finding that the 2013 order could not form the basis of contempt of court. The order was not ambiguous with respect to requiring compliance with the Act and Regulations, as they existed from time to time. It would make no sense to require compliance with statutory or regulatory requirements that had been replaced or superseded. The Singhs and Seattle were not excused from complying with the order because it did not specify specific legislative and regulatory provisions with which they were expected to comply. They were voluntarily engaged in a business in a highly-regulated area and were expected to understand and comply with the legislative and regulatory requirements for doing so. If any of the provisions of either the Act or Regulations were vague, that did not render the 2012 order unenforceable. There was no evidence of bias on the record to support the cross-appeal.

British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Board) v. Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd., [2017] B.C.J. No. 48, British Columbia Court of Appeal, S.D. Frankel, D.C. Harris and J.E.D. Savage JJ.A., January 13, 2017. Digest No. 3641-009