TORONTO — It’s possible a ruling may be handed down this month in the Canadian Beef Farmers’ $8-billion class-action lawsuit against the federal government for allowing BSE into the country decades ago.
Duncan Boswell, senior partner with Gowling WLG in Toronto and lead counsel in the lawsuit, said by email that he anticipates a decision will be issued this month — January 2022 — “unless Justice Schabas has been pressed into duty on other trials.”
The law firm has said that as many as 100,000 people will benefit if the producer group wins the case.
Closing arguments were heard in the summer of 2021.
The suit alleges the government knowingly allowed cattle from BSE-infected herds in the United Kingdom to enter Canada between 1982 and 1990. A first domestic case turned up in an Alberta cow in 2003, triggering the ruinous closure of export markets to Canadian beef. BSE — Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy — is otherwise known as Mad Cow disease.
Many countries still won’t accept Canadian beef to this day, although the key U.S. market reopened in 2008. Progress was made last spring when the World Organisation for Animal Health finally accorded Canada “negligible risk” status for the disease.
Just last month, Canada recorded its first new case of BSE in six years. That Alberta animal was found to have rare “atypical” BSE, similar to the last North American case that turned up in the U.S. in 2018. Only South Korea has reacted to the recent discovery by banning imports of Canadian beef, though it’s believed this measure will be temporary.