This case involved one of several persons who were charged with selling blueback seal pelts caught in 1996. After a constitutional challenge in the Ward case, the matter was remitted back to trial. After the Crown had proven all of the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, the trial judge entered a stay of proceedings as a result of a finding of officially induced error. This finding was based upon evidence that D.F.O. had acquiesced in the fishery for a number of years including the year that it occurred. Such acquiescence included being on the grounds at the time the fishery was being conducted without interfering and taking no steps to warn the sealers that the fishery was illegal.
Upon summary conviction appeal by the Crown the decision of the trial court was upheld by applying the SCC case of Levis (City) v. Tetreault, 2006 SCC 12.
Upon further appeal, the defence of officially induced error was rejected because the accused knew the sale of bluebacks was illegal and no statement was made or information furnished by DFO stating otherwise. With respect to inferences made by the accused, the court said "The failure of a regulatory body to enforce a regulation cannot constitute a representation as to the legality of the conduct in issue" (para 48).
Editor’s note: For a paper on this subject pre-dating this case see: IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE . . . OR IS IT? The Defence of Officially Induced Error Fisherman Life July 2006 posted in the Papers Section the Fisheries Section of this website.