BSE suit underway

The class action lawsuit launched by cattle producers against the federal government for damages caused by BSE is being conducted over Zoom.

The Ontario Superior Court began hearing the case in mid-February and is expected to continue to June.

Duncan Boswell, senior partner at WLG Gowling in Toronto and a lead counsel, said he expects a written decision after the testimony is heard. That will likely take months.

The $8-billion lawsuit was first launched in 2005, after the 2003 discovery of a single case of BSE in a Canadian-born cow closed borders to Canadian beef and live trade. Other species, such as bison, were also affected.

The plaintiffs allege that Ottawa didn’t do enough to prevent British cattle from entering Canada between 1982 and 1990 even though BSE was a problem in the United Kingdom. They say affected imported cattle entered the feed chain, which led to the 2003 discovery.

The class action was certified in 2008 and similar proceedings in other provinces were suspended in favour of the Ontario action. Since then, there have been numerous court conferences and exchanges. Last December, the attorney general asked for another adjournment to the fall of 2021 but the judge ordered the case to proceed virtually.

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