Keywords: Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act – s. 67(1), 117(2); skid trails; defence of due diligence; absolute liability
Repap British Columbia Inc. (“Repap”) appealed an Administrative Review decision upholding the Determination of the District Manager that Repap contravened section 67(1) of the Code and that Repap be assessed a penalty of $1000. The determination was that two unauthorized bladed trails had been constructed by one of Repap’s contractors. Repap submitted that it did everything it could to prevent the contravention by carrying out prework meetings and communicating instructions to the contractor, and that the defence of due diligence was therefore available. It submitted further that the concept of absolute liability is abhorrent to any reasonable notion of fairness.
The Panel found that where legislation is clearly and unambiguously worded it is perfectly acceptable to have an absolute standard of liability for administrative sanctions and penalties such as in this case, as distinct from criminal offences which require higher standards of proof and have different defences available such as due diligence. The Panel followed an earlier decision of the commission and held that due diligence is not a defence to a determination under section 117(2) of the Code for a contravention of section 67(1). The Panel also held that the penalty of $1000 was appropriate considering the significant site disturbance resulting from the unauthorized construction and that the penalty was far short of the maximum allowable penalty of $50,000. The appeal was dismissed.