Farmers Forum staff
TORONTO — An $8-billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Canadian cattle producers hurt by the BSE crisis 20 years ago is likely going back to court this year.
A superior court judge dismissed the class action lawsuit last year but the case has been appealed and will be heard in a Toronto courtroom.
Justice Paul Schabas rejected the lawsuit against the federal government in January 2022, prompting the plaintiffs to announce an appeal soon afterward. If successful, the lawsuit would benefit about 100,000 farmers affected by the border closure. The proceeds of the lawsuit would be divided among livestock owners, based on the number of cattle they owned in 2003. It was 20 years ago, in May 2003, when a single Alberta cow was diagnosed with BSE, also known as mad-cow disease.
The lawsuit argues that the federal government is responsible for a BSE-infected cow in Alberta after allowing cattle into Canada from Britain when that country was known to have BSE-infected cattle.
More recently, Duncan Boswell, senior partner with Gowling WLG in Toronto and lead counsel in the suit, reported that necessary filings were completed with the Ontario Court of Appeal in March 2023. “We are hopeful that the appeal can be heard before the end of this year,” Boswell added by email.
The legal odyssey dates back to 2005 when the original claims were heard in four provinces before the suit moved exclusively to Ontario court. It was in 2005 that the U.S. allowed young Canadian cattle, under 30 months of age, back into its marketplace after a two-year border closure. Other countries shut out Canadian beef for much longer. It was only this year that Japan finally reopened its market fully to Canadian beef.