Elite Farm Services workers seen throwing chickens at a Chilliwack farm in undercover video filmed by Mercy for Animals.

Companies charged with Fraser Valley chicken abuse want to see all video evidence

Judge agrees with lawyers for chicken catching company and Sofina Foods about inadequate disclosure

Defence counsel for an individual and two companies charged with animal cruelty at a Fraser Valley chicken catching operation told a court Monday they could not enter a plea to the charges because they do not have all the video evidence documenting the alleged abuse.

Facing 38 charges are Elite Farm Services Ltd., the company’s owner Dwayne Paul Dueck, and Sofina Foods Inc./Aliments Sofina Inc., Markham, Ont.

Clips from the video package shot at an Elite Farm Services operation in Chilliwack by animal protection group Mercy For Animals (MFA) showed chickens being kicked, stomped on, thrown at walls, sexually abused and having their limbs torn off.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack chicken catchers accused of ‘torturing’ birds in undercover videos

Crown called the abuse “egregious” and referred to the individual who filmed the acts as a “whistleblower.”

Defence counsel, however, referred to him as a “foreign operative” with political motivations.

“That videotape certainly doesn’t tell the whole story,” Sofina lawyer Morgan Camley told the court on May 13. “The other hours of videotape that we suggest exist are fundamentally important to my client to be in a position to determine whether or not they can be guilty or not guilty.”

Camley pointed specifically to concerns over possible “inducements,” in other words, the possibility that those seen abusing the chickens in the video clips were in some way convinced to act in a way they would may not have if the MFA agent wasn’t present.

Defence counsel for Dueck and Elite similarly argued the disclosure by Crown has been incomplete.

“We are not yet at a point where we can advise our clients,” lawyer Martin Finch said, adding that maybe a jury trial was in order, but he did not have enough of the Crown’s evidence to properly make that decision.

In response, Crown counsel Jessica Lawn said defence counsel has in fact been provided all that is legally necessary, and in some instances even more.

”The idea that there is other footage, I’m not sure where my friends got this idea from,” Lawn told Judge Andrea Ormiston.

“I can’t see how this can’t move forward with arraignment.”

The charges stem from undercover videos filmed by animal protection group Mercy For Animals in 2017. That video was obtained by an individual with MFA who got himself employed by Elite as a chicken catcher, then filmed actions seen in and around the barns with the use of a body camera.

“This case involves a foreign operative entering into a surreptitious employment with my friend’s client and videotaping events that happened on a farm then providing that videotape to the CFIA where an investigation was opened up and charges were laid,” Sofina lawyer Camley explained to the court.

Another complaint by defence counsel is that the main evidence is video filmed by an undercover agent, footage that could not have been legally obtained by Canadian investigative bodies.

Lawn said Crown has been in contact with Mercy For Animals and was told they think all the video was provided to CFIA, but defence counsel says there is no way of knowing if that is true.

“We asked Mercy For Animals,” Lawn said. “They reviewed their database and believe they provided it all.”

After the video evidence came to light, and the CFIA along with the BC SPCA investigated, the charges were laid under the Health of Animal Regulations.

Judge Ormiston agreed with defence arguments that it was too early for arraignment given the uncertainty over the video, and other disclosure requirements not being met.

The case was put over to May 27 at the earliest. At that time or after, Camley suggested she may bring a Stinchcombe Application, which addresses Crown disclosure, on behalf of her client Sofina Foods. Of some issue is that the charges came about solely based on Crown relying on the CFIA, which relied on the “quasi-investigative” actions of a foreign organization with political purposes.

What was agreed upon by all parties in court on May 13 is that however the case proceeds, unless there are guilty pleas, it will be a very long road ahead with 38 charges each against three accused parties.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fire ban back in effect for Northwest Fire Centre region

Starting May 24, both Category 2 and Category 3 prohibitions will be in place

Kelowna company wins contract for LNG Canada project in Kitimat

SK Form & Finish will work with equivalent of 4,000 fully loaded concrete trucks

U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminium scrapped

Joint effort by industry, government and unions secures deal

Rio Tinto BC Works watching Nechako reservoir levels closely

Dropping water levels could threaten power generation operations

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Most Read