Jan. 5, 2010 was the latest court date in the charges I laid under the Fisheries Act against Marine Harvest Canada for unlawful possession of wild salmon by-catch. Generally, when a member of the public witnesses a potential violation of the Fisheries Act, they simply report it to the federal fisheries (DFO) who does the investigation and lays a charge if they have the evidence. DFO asks the public to help under their Observe, Record, Report campaign. Many people have stepped forward over the years to help DFO successfully enforce the Fisheries Act and conserve our wild fish. I did report the wild salmon that were in the Marine Harvest vessel, Orca Warrior to DFO, they indicated they were investigating, but they never said whether they would lay a charge. So I did to protect the juvenile wild salmon of the Broughton.
At our last court date, a month ago in Port Hardy, the Department of Justice (DOJ – who is next in line after DFO to run this trial indicated they needed more time to investigate the charge. My lawyer, Jeffery Jones and I hope the DOJ will assume conduct and run the prosecution as that is what DOJ’s mandate is, and they have the better resources and expertise to do this.
But on Jan. 5, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent an agent, as did Marine Harvest. But my lawyer and I were disappointed to hear that DOJ has refused to make a decision as to whether or not to prosecute. This means that we still don’t know if we should conduct the trial ourselves and remain in limbo. It creates uncertainty in the trial process if at any time DOJ can suddenly step in and take over…or not.
However, Judge Saunderson clarified the matter and ordered the DOJ to make a decision within 30 days.
Jeffery Jones, who is working pro bono, also asked for disclosure from DFO and DOJ, because if we are to continue in the government’s role as the prosecutor we need the government files on their investigation. Presumably, Marine Harvest would want disclosure from DFO and DOJ as well.
Judge Saunderson adjourned our application for disclosure until after he hears what the DOJ’s intention is.