Court convictions are a legal process where a person or business is formally charged and found guilty in a court of law by a judge. Formal charges are initiated by Crown Counsel when there is sufficient evidence of the alleged offence, and:
- other methods of enforcement were ineffective or there is reason to believe that other enforcement methods will not be effective
- the accused party is a repeat offender
- the action of the offender was wilful, or fell significantly below the standard of due diligence
- there was more than minimal damage to environmental or human health, or there was substantial potential for damage to environmental or human health
- the safety of persons was endangered, or there was substantial potential for the safety of persons to be endangered
- there was significant non-compliance with regulatory requirements, or
- the public interest in the maintenance of environmental values requires prosecution
Guilty convictions may result in a range of penalties, typically including fines, creative sentencing orders, forfeitures, probation or jail time. Court fines are directed to government's Consolidated Revenue Fund. Under environmental statutes, creative sentencing orders are typically directed to organizations such as the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation; these organizations help remedy damage and improve the environment in the area impacted by the non-compliant activity.
Use the drop-down windows below to learn more about the boards and courts that are most applicable to environmental cases. While the Environmental Appeal Board is not part of the court system, it is included here as it plays a key role in B.C.'s natural resource compliance and enforcement framework. Where an appeal is heard depends on the type of enforcement action and the level of court where the trial was held.
The Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) is an independent agency which hears appeals from certain decisions made by government officials related to environmental issues. These decisions include water licenses, administrative penalties, contaminated site remediation orders, pesticide permits and the cancellation of hunting licenses. The EAB provides a quasi-judicial access point for the public and industry to appeal certain government decisions. A party dissatisfied with a decision or order of the Environmental Appeal Board may apply to the B.C. Supreme Court for a judicial review of the decision. The EAB provides a summaries of judicial reviews of EAB decisions online here.
The Provincial Court is the first level of trial court in British Columbia and hears criminal, criminal youth, family, child protection, small claims, and traffic cases. Over 95% of all criminal cases in the province are heard in Provincial Court. Sometimes a Provincial Court judge may make a decision that a litigant feels is wrong. In our justice system, the process for rectifying judicial errors is by way of appeal or judicial review to a higher court (the Supreme Court of B.C. or the B.C. Court of Appeal). Learn more about the processes of criminal cases here and Provincial Court appeals here.
The B.C. Supreme Court is the superior trial court for the province and hears both civil and criminal cases, as well as some appeals from the Provincial Court. A party may appeal a decision of the Supreme Court to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal is the highest court in the province. It hears appeals from the Supreme Court, from the Provincial Court on some criminal matters, and reviews and appeals from some administrative boards and tribunals.
The Federal Court is Canada's national trial court which hears and decides legal disputes arising in the federal domain, including claims against the Government of Canada, civil suits in federally-regulated areas and challenges to the decisions of federal tribunals. Learn more about Canada's judicial structure here.
The Federal Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear appeals from judgments of the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. It also hears appeals pursuant to a variety of other federal legislation. The countrywide mission of the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal is intended to ensure that federal legislation is applied in a uniform and constant manner across the country, while taking into consideration the private law in the province or territory where the litigation arises. The appeals heard by the Federal Court of Appeal deal with issues stemming from complex, specialized and often innovative areas of law. Among other things, the Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes regarding tax law, maritime law, immigration law, Aboriginal law, prison law, social law, aeronautics, intellectual property and national security. It also oversees the largest administrative law caseload in Canada, as the court responsible for the judicial review of the federal administration.
The Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals from the decisions of the highest courts of final resort of the provinces and territories, as well as from the Federal Court of Appeal and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. The Supreme Court is a general court of appeal from all other Canadian courts of law. It, therefore, has jurisdiction over disputes in all areas of the law, including constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law and private law. The Court assures uniformity, consistency and correctness in the articulation, development and interpretation of legal principles throughout the Canadian judicial system.