When I was a young lawyer, fines up for even the most egregious environmental offences tended to be very small. In one famous case, R.v. Cyanamid, proof of enormous pollution was punished with a $1 fine. Judges used to groan when we environmental prosecutors came into their courtrooms, complaining about the “frogs and logs brigade”.
Canadian courts have clearly got over their discomfort with environmental prosecutions: six and seven figure fines are now increasingly common, and the appellate courts have become willing to uphold them. For example, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld fines totaling $715,000 against Alpha Manufacturing and its sole director and shareholder for dumping huge amounts of waste in a wetland, causing significant environmental damage. Of course, the amount of the fine is always less important than the perceived likelihood of being caught, but both of these have improved substantially in the past three decades.
We are lucky to live in Canada.