Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (Canada)
Media Release, August 30, 2005
Organic farmers granted leave to appeal class certification decision
Today the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released Honourable Mr. Justice Cameron's decision granting the certified organic farmers of Saskatchewan leave to appeal the Court of Queen's Bench decision dated May 11, 2005 denying them class certification under Saskatchewan's Class Actions Act. The farmers are seeking compensation for losses due to contamination of organic fields and crops by Monsanto's and Bayer's genetically engineered canolas.
Judge Cameron agreed that the issues raised by the plaintiffs should be dealt with by the Appeal Court. He agreed that the questions of whether Judge Smith erred in her finding of no cause of action - an error which cascades through her decisions on the remaining four tests required to grant class certification – and whether she applied an overly rigorous standard for class certifications should be examined by the Appeal Court.
Plaintiff Larry Hoffman says he feels encouraged by the decision. "It gives us a chance to argue how the Class Actions Act should be applied. The spirit of the law is to even out the odds between the Davids and the Goliaths in the world. The lower court decision made it too hard on us Davids, and we think that's unfair. A farmer like me can't afford to take on a big company like Monsanto when it threatens my livelihood and way of life. But if we can join together in a class action, our combined strength can make it possible to hold these companies accountable for their actions."
"This is great", says plaintiff Dale Beaudoin. "On behalf of 1000 plus organic farmers we can continue to fight for our right to remain stewards for sustainable agriculture. This is no minor issue. It is a matter of independence and survival for all farmers world-wide."
For the decision and other details of the class action suit, please see http://www.saskorganic.com/oapf/
August 31, 2005, The Regina Leader-Post
Organic farmers can appeal ruling
Saskatchewan organic farmers will get another opportunity to try to launch a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.
The farmers' first attempt to have the case against the two companies certified as a class action was rejected in a 179-page ruling by Justice Gene Anne Smith in May 2005. On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal granted them leave to appeal that decision.
Two farmers were named as plaintiffs in the suit, which aims to include all Saskatchewan organic farmers certified from 1996. The producers, supported by the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, are seeking compensation for losses they say are the result of the introduction of genetically modified canola.
In granting the leave to appeal, Justice Stuart Cameron wrote that the proposed appeal raises "some comparatively new and potentially controversial points of law." Smith had ruled that prerequisites needed to certify an action as a class action -- according to Section 6 of the Class Actions Act -- were not satisfied. Cameron noted the Class Actions Act was enacted fairly recently, and Smith's decision "constitutes the most comprehensive application" of Section 6 of the act undertaken so far in the province. "It stands as the seminal authority in the province on class actions," Cameron wrote.
"Without suggesting that Justice Smith's decision is in any respect flawed, I do believe her appreciation and application of the prerequisites of Section 6 raises some issues of sufficient importance generally to warrant consideration by this court." For example, some of the arguments before Cameron centred on the "rigour" Smith applied in considering each of the prerequisites that had to be met to allow the class action, wrote Cameron.
On one hand, it was argued the application for certification as a class action was subjected to more exacting standards than called for by the act. On the other, Smith was said to have approached it rigorously "in the sense of carefully and thoroughly."
Terry Zakreski, the lawyer representing the farmers, said they will now file documents with the Court of Appeal and wait for an appeal date to be set. Zakreski said he feels the decision shows they raised good arguments for the higher court to consider on the basis the lower court may have "set the bar too high" regarding what's needed in order to be certified as a class action. (by Angela Hall)