R v. Glenshiel Towing Co. Ltd.

In Pollution (Ship Source) on (Updated )

On December 16, 1997, the tug “Glenshiel” was found heeled over and submerged at her mooring in False Creek, Vancouver. As a result of the sinking a considerable amount of diesel fuel escaped from the vessel into the water and the owner was charged pursuant to s. 668 of the Canada Shipping Act with discharging a pollutant. At trial, the accused was acquitted on the grounds that the Crown had failed to prove sufficient evidence to support a conviction. On appeal, the Crown argued that all it needed to prove to support a conviction was that the pollutant emanated from the ship. The accused argued that it was incumbent on the Crown to prove that the accused caused the discharge. The Judge on appeal agreed with the accused holding that the Crown must prove some causal link between the accused and the discharge of the oil before liability will arise, at which point the onus shifts to the accused to prove due diligence. On further appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the offence was a strict liability offence which carries a conviction upon mere proof of the prescribed act. The Crown was not required to prove that an act or omission of the master or some other person on board the ship caused the discharge. All that is required is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the discharge occurred. Thereafter, the onus shifts to the accused to prove that all due care was taken to avoid the discharge.