Ecojustice is a charity which exists to file environment-related lawsuits against corporations and the government. Once again, they’ve set their sights on the topic of salmon aquaculture at the behest of Alexandra Morton.
But what the idealistic and eager team of lawyers hoping to sink their teeth into the next “Erin Brockovitch” case might not realize is that they, and everyone who donates money to them, are being sucked into one woman’s personal vendetta against someone who once made her look foolish.
Ecojustice is suing the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia for, it says, “refusing to investigate a complaint Ms. Morton made against a government aquaculture veterinarian. The lawsuit seeks to force the College to investigate the complaint.”
Ecojustice, and Morton, allege that in 2007 the provincial aquaculture veterinarian, Mark Sheppard, misled the provincial Minister Of Agriculture and Lands with incorrect information about the ISA virus and Atlantic salmon egg imports into BC. They are filing the lawsuit to “investigate whether the veterinarian’s erroneous advice amounted to professional misconduct.”
The nut of it is that in the memo signed by Sheppard, the grammar structure of one sentence suggests he is saying BC doesn’t, didn’t, or never has (the grammar is unclear) imported Atlantic salmon eggs.
This lawsuit is as pedantic as they come.
But the 2007 memo isn’t even what it’s really about.
In 2007, Dr. Mark Sheppard joined the provincial government as its aquatic animal health veterinarian. He served there until a court challenge by Morton resulted in aquaculture regulation responsibilities moving from the province to DFO.
Interestingly, despite the Supreme Court of BC decision, aquaculture on the East Coast of Canada still remains under provincial jurisdiction.
In 2010, after a poor return of Fraser River sockeye in 2009 prompted a flurry of public concern and a federal commission of inquiry, both Morton and Sheppard spoke to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa.
Morton spent her audience with the committee congratulating herself on how easy it is to study sea lice (her words) and predicting environmental doom because of salmon farms.
Two days later, Sheppard spoke to the committee, which posed many of Morton’s concerns to him as questions. He clearly explained why Morton was wrong, and why some of her statements were “misleading and quite frankly, irresponsible.”
He went on to definitively pin her to the wall.
“Some people–who are not qualified to make comments on it in my
opinion–have decided to put forth a wildly speculative conclusion… That case in itself is just a matter of someone who either doesn’t understand the science or simply prefer to move forth with a perspective to suit their agenda.”
Morton was left looking like a hysterical fool by Sheppard’s factual, honest testimony. And as we’ve seen with the Character Assassination of Simon Jones, she holds grudges against anyone who exposes her scientific ignorance and her predilection to manipulate science to her own ends.
After DFO took over BC salmon farming regulation, Sheppard went to work with DFO as lead veterinarian for aquatic environmental operations. He recently left DFO to pursue a private veterinary practice in Campbell River.
And that’s when Ecojustice and Morton dredged up this smear campaign. If Sheppard gets dragged into the case, he’ll have to do it all on his own dime, since he no longer works for the government.
It’s a mean-spirited vendetta by a woman ruthless in her pursuit to be right. It’s going to be a waste of time and money for the College of Veterinarians, and it’s a smear on the reputation of a man who was conscientious, careful, and most of all committed to protecting the environment while he served both the provincial and federal governments.
Anyone who donates to Ecojustice should be embarrassed their money is being spent on nuisance lawsuits like this.
BONUS: Why opinions in BC about salmon farming are polarized
During his testimony to the standing committee, Sheppard accurately described why salmon aquaculture in BC is perceived as a controversial issue.
“It is frustrating. There appear to be two different stories, but I think that’s largely because the silent majority, the credible scientists who bring a modicum of objectivity to this entire topic, don’t appear in the newspaper or on the Internet. They publish their articles, they’re factual, and the average Canadian citizen doesn’t read them. It’s very technical information. So communication is one problem.
I think there needs to be better communication from the industry,
better communication in lay terms from the scientific community, and from the provincial and federal governments.
Instead what we hear is the vocal minority who, quite frankly, are not aquaculture specialists. Rather, they are anti-aquaculture specialists. They’re very good at what they do. They’re very
intelligent people, very passionate people, and they’re very good at communicating to the media and to the Internet. For the majority of Canadians, that’s what they hear. Of course, that’s what
they will believe because they’re only hearing one side of the story.
…there is a tremendous amount of collaboration on the go in
British Columbia right now between the industry, fish farmers, and the ENGOs who are willing, of course, wanting things to improve, as the farmers are, and as the province is. There’s always room for improvement, but there is a tremendous amount of collaboration that is happening: joint funding, joint projects, both looking at the same things, comparing notes. There is an awful lot of transparency and communication between those groups. Again, that’s the helpful group.
There is another faction that is just quite simply anti-aquaculture, and that’s where the transparency stops. That’s where the information is not generally forthcoming because, in many
cases, the information is abused.”