Keywords:Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act — sections 96, 117, 119; officially induced error.
This was an appeal by Steve Noel against the confirmation by an Administrative Review Panel of the District Manager’s determination, that Mr. Noel contravened section 96 of the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act, and should be assessed a penalty of $22,000.
The contravention occurred when Mr. Noel harvested approximately 450 m3 of timber outside of the boundaries of his timber sale licence (“TSL”), despite several clear demarcations of the boundaries on maps provided to him as part of the timber sale package. Mr. Noel alleged that he began harvesting in the wrong area based on verbal directions from Ministry staff as to the location of TSL A65705.
The issues in the appeal were: whether Mr. Noel’s improper harvesting was due to officially induced error, and whether the penalty was excessive and should be reduced.
The Commission held that, for Mr. Noel to benefit from the doctrine of officially induced error, the error must have been one of law. The Commission found that Mr. Noel harvested the wrong area, due to an error of fact, not law. The Commission found that Ministry staff had not misrepresented the TSL location to Mr. Noel, as it was clearly marked on the materials they supplied to him. The Commission found that Mr. Noel’s error of fact was his own, and was not induced by Ministry staff. However, the Commission found that in assessing the penalty, the District Manager mistakenly assumed that Mr. Noel had made a similar boundary error in the past, and as such the District Manager’s assessment of the deterrent portion of the penalty was excessive. The Commission reduced the deterrent portion to $7,500, which reduced the total penalty to $14,500.