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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s 75,000 veggie plants ready to find a home

New gardeners line-up for Get Growing Victoria

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

No one injured in suspicious Victoria boat fire, say investigators

Victoria police and fire personnel called to blaze on waters near Selkirk Trestle May 22

VIDEO: Saanich police tackle man who refused to move off Trans-Canada Highway

At this point, it is unclear why the man refused to move

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

Dump truck in Nanaimo snags power lines, snaps hydro pole, crashes

No injuries in incident Monday morning on Old Victoria Road

Ferry sailings scheduled once again at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay terminal

BC Ferries announces that resumption of service June 3 includes four daily round trips

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Island Health signs working agreement to turn former Comox hospital into a ‘dementia village’

Island Health has signed a project development agreement with Providence Living to… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

Most Read