Elite Farm Services workers seen throwing chickens at a Chilliwack farm in undercover video filmed by Mercy for Animals.

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

(Tracey Roberts Photo)
COVID-19 rule followers are not suckers

Cassidy Dankochik’s column from the Jan. 20 paper

A dust advisory is in place for Quesnel. Residents are asked to be careful near heavy traffic areas. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel under dust advisory

High levels of dust in the air can be dangerous for people with COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

A tree near the Sword Avenue baseball diamond was felled by high winds. The diamond is planned to be decommissioned by the city of Quesnel. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel planning on shutting down ballfields

City council hopes maximize the usage at West Fraser Timber Park and Barlow Creek

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read