BC Supreme Court rejects lawsuits over mink farm ban

A mink (Neovison vison) looks out from a cage on a Canadian fur farm.

Lawsuits filed by five mink fur farm businesses were dismissed in a decision by British Columbia’s Supreme Court this week. 

The lawsuits were filed in November 2023 following the province’s mink fur farm ban in 2021. In the May 7, 2024, decision, Justice Amy Francis dismissed the lawsuits, writing that, “I have determined that the notices of civil claim advance claims that are bound to fail, and which cannot be redeemed by amending the pleadings. Therefore, the five notices of civil claim must be struck in their entirety.”

Click here to read the decision in full

The lawsuits make two claims against the provincial government: misfeasance in public office and constructive taking. The Justice dismissed both these claims. Regarding the first claim of misfeasance, the mink farmers argued that the province acted unlawfully in bringing forward the mink farming ban. They claimed the ban was not introduced solely for public health reasons, but because the province was influenced or pressured by others, or for other purposes. In paragraph 37, Justice Francis clarified how government operates:

[37] I agree with the Provincial Defendants that the core of the plaintiffs’ claim—namely, that it was impermissible for Cabinet to enact the OIC for “political, social and public opinion reasons” rather than for public health reasons—is based on a misunderstanding of our system of responsible government. Cabinet is a political body that is responsive to public opinion. When Cabinet passes subordinate legislation, such as the amendments to the Fur Farming Regulation, it may be moved by any number of political, economic, social or partisan considerations: Thorne’s Hardware Ltd. v. The Queen, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 106 at pp. 112–113.

Regarding the claim of constructive taking, which is a “forcible acquisition by the Crown of privately-owned property for public purposes”, this was dismissed as well:

[50] In their notices of civil claim, the plaintiffs plead that the Province acquired the following benefits from depriving them of their property:
a) the preservation, promotion, and protection of public health;
b) the preservation, promotion and protection of animal health and welfare; and
c) the satisfaction of public standards on animal health and welfare.

In paragraph 54, Justice Francis writes, “These advantages are completely untethered to the plaintiffs’ property,” and concludes, “The claim of constructive taking is fundamentally flawed and cannot be saved by amendment. The claim should be struck.”

All five lawsuits were dismissed.

Pending mink farming lawsuit in BC
These five lawsuits are separate from a lawsuit launched against the province in 2022 to overturn the ban on mink farming. This case is pending and no decision has been made.

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