On February 18, 2021, in Granby courthouse, Pete Persons Terre Sable & Gravier Inc. was sentenced and fined a total of $15,000 after pleading guilty to two offences under the Species at Risk Act. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.
As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
On June 5, 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada wildlife enforcement officers visited quarries and sandpits in the Estrie region of Quebec to carry out inspections to verify compliance with the Species at Risk Act and to carry out public education and outreach concerning bank swallows (Riparia riparia).
During those activities, officers discovered a sandpit containing three bank swallow nesting sites, two of which were active or in use. Officers met a heavy machinery operator working for the company in the area and informed him of the presence of the swallows and the nesting sites, as well as the responsibility to ensure that work activities did not disturb the birds or their nests. On a subsequent follow-up visit on July 31, 2019, officers discovered that two nesting sites, one of which was active on June 5, had been destroyed with heavy machinery.
It is an offence under the Species at Risk Act to kill or harm a wildlife species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened or to damage or destroy the residence of a listed species. The bank swallow was listed as a threatened species under the Act, on November 2, 2017.
On February 18, 2021, the company pleaded guilty to two counts under the Act, for having destroyed nests of bank swallows, and in doing so, harming individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as threatened, and damaging or destroying the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as threatened.
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Bank swallows nest in burrows dug into exposed soil, primarily on the banks of ponds and rivers, but also in sandpits and quarries, and at some construction sites where vertical banks of soil are found. To reduce the risk of damaging or destroying a bank swallow nest, it is recommended that persons conducting work near potential nesting areas avoid scheduling excavation or construction activities during the spring and summer nesting season.
Bank swallow populations in Canada have declined by 98 per cent in the last forty years.
The Environmental Damages Fund is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. It was created in 1995 to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit the environment.