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TRADE REGULATION - Offences and penalties

Monday, September 13, 2021 @ 9:41 AM  

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Application by the defendants, charged with offences under the Health of Animals Act, for a stay of proceedings. Latawiec worked as an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals (MFA), a non-profit animal advocacy organization. In 2017, he worked at the defendant Elite Farms as a chicken catcher for 19 days. During that time, Latawiec made 244 video recordings. After transferring his daily video recordings to his computer, Latawiec would delete his SD card. MFA lodged a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). After an investigation, CFIA recommended the defendants be charged. After his investigation concluded, Latawiec recycled burner phones used to communicate during the investigation and deleted the bulk of his e-mails. Text messages between Latawiec and his MFA contact were retrieved from the contact’s phone. Some e-mails were retrieved on an external hard drive.

HELD: Application dismissed. Latawiec was not a state actor. The metadata was relevant to Latawiec’s credibility. There was no evidence Latawiec communicated with anyone other than the MFA contact with the burner phone. It was not established the communications between them were intentionally destroyed. It was unclear whether relevant e-mails were lost or destroyed, as they could possibly be obtained from MFA. Latawiec’s actions did not amount to the intentional destruction of evidence but rather a failure to preserve evidence. The applicants’ rights to full answer and defence and a fair trial were not breached by the intentional destruction of evidence.

R. v. Elite Farm Services Ltd., [2021] B.C.J. No. 1766, British Columbia Supreme Court, T.J. Crabtree J., August 13, 2021. Digest No. TLD-September132021002