A provincial court has ordered a company and its director to rehabilitate a provincially significant wetland on Rothbourne Road that they damaged over five years ago.
On Thursday, Justice Diane M. Lahaie of the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa upheld an appeal initiated by the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MCVA), and issued a court order to a numbered company, 1634088 Ontario Inc., and its director, Rodolfo Mion, to rehabilitate and restore the wetland on Rothbourne Road near Highway 7.
Essentially, the judge ruled that the original $7,500 fine imposed wasn’t much of a punishment (or a deterrent) for bulldozing a wetland to create developable land.
The wetland area is part of the Goulbourn Wetland Complex, designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW). Back in 2012, the MCVA charged the company, Mion and a contractor on three counts under the Ontario Conservation Authorities Act. The offences carry a maximum fine of $10,000 or up to three months in prison. Courts can also order the removal of the development that caused the damage, and rehabilitation of a wetland. They were found guilty on two counts and the company was fined $7,500. (Mion received a suspended sentence.)
(Recommended reading: Shannon Lough’s report of the calamitous first two days of the trial on StittsvilleCentral.ca back in October 2015.)
The MCVA appealed the sentence, arguing that a fine alone wasn’t enough, and that a restoration order should be imposed to properly remediate and restore the wetlands. Justice Lahaie agreed.
“A $7,500 fine imposed on a corporation with a stated purpose to develop land does not deter that corporation from damaging a wetland in the future. Such a fine is a small price to pay for moving a wetland designation and opening up land for development. As it stands, the Respondents can pay their fine, proceed with restoring the watercourse and be left with land no longer designated as wetland,” she wrote in her decision.
“Moreover, a $7,500 fine imposed on a corporation or an individual would not deter others from developing wetland areas. Corporations or individuals in the business of land development would surely view this sentence as a license to illegally develop a wetland to remove its protected designation, pay a small fine and be left with ready-to-build property. The trail justice erred by underempasizing specific and general deterrence in imposing a $7,500,” she wrote.
Justice Lahaie has given the company and Mion six months to rehabilitate and restore the wetlands as directed by the MCVA.
“We are pleased with Justice Lahaie’s decision to grant the appeal, as we take the protection of wetlands and non-compliance of our regulations very seriously. The main objectives of the Conservation Authorities Act and the regulations are to ensure public safety, protect property with respect to natural hazards and to safeguard watershed health by preventing pollution and destruction of sensitive environmental areas,” wrote Andy Moore, MVCA Regulations Officer, in a written statement.
“This decision ensures that the significant wetland areas will be rehabilitated accordingly.”
You can read Justice Lahaie’s full decision below.