Morton v. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Marine Harvest Canada Inc.

In Fish Cases, Judicial Review/Crown Liability on (Updated )

This case involved judicial review of conditions in Salmon Farm licences on the Pacific Coast that allowed the transfer of diseased smolts from hatcheries to fish farms if, amongst other things, the fish farm’s veterinarian deems the transfer to be of low risk. After a lengthy analysis, the court granted an order declaring that the impugned licence conditions were of no force and effect on the grounds that:

(1) They were inconsistent with the regulatory pre-conditions imposed on the Minister of Fisheries by s. 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations and the precautionery principle; and

(2) There was an improper subdelegation of the Minister’s authority becase (a) it conferred unlimited discrition upon the sub-delagate without any standards or criteria for the exercise of discritions and (b) the Minister did not retain supervisory control.

After an interesting analysis of the use of conditions in licences by the Minster, the Court concluded by noting that since the scope of regulation is constrained by its enabling legislation, "so too are licences".

Editor’s note: Since many charges under the federal Fisheries Act are for breaches of license conditions, as opposed to breaches of regulations, this case could be useful in defending fisheries prosecutions.