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Who is an “officer”?

Section 194 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act imposes substantial duties on corporate officers and directors, without defining who they are. It is essential for people to know whether these duties and this environmental liability applies to them. If, as the Ministry of the Environment claims, section 18 of the Act imposes absolute liability on officers and directors for corporate environmental problems, it is even more urgent to know who is, and who is not, an “officer” of any corporation, whether private, municipal, or other. For example, is an environmental manager an “officer” within the meaning of the EPA?

In R. v. 349977 Ontario Inc. o/a Lacombe Waste 2013 CarswellOnt 11137 at para 53, the MOE charged an environmental manager  of a waste management corporation with numerous corporate waste management offences, arguing that he was an “officer” of the corporation. He was not  listed as an “officer” or “director” on any of the official records that the corporation filed under the Ontario Business Corporations Act. During the trial, the MOE alleged that the environmental manager was an “officer” of the corporation for the purposes of the Environmental Protection Act, and that section 194 could therefore be used as a benchmark of his duties.

The appeal judge ruled that the environmental manager was not an “officer” within the meaning of the EPA. He was acquitted of all the charges; the Crown had not proven that he participated in any of the offences or knew about them at the time they occurred.

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