The Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench has struck out a claim by Raymond Michaud as an abuse of process on the basis that it was an impermissible collateral attack on a decision made by the Director of the Department of Conservation. What is most interesting about the case is the fact situation. On February 12, 2002, a fire occurred at Michaud's farm. He was injured and taken to hospital. An environmental officer with the Department of Conservation attended the farm and observed that the residence was completely destroyed and buildings and grain silos were saturated with a combination of gasoline and heating and/or diesel fuel. Samples of grain indicated the presence of elevated gasoline vapours and the environmental officer was of the view that there was potential for a further explosion or fire because of the condition of the grain.
Clean-up orders were issued, but Michaud failed to clean up the property. The Department went ahead and did so and sent the bill to Michaud. In his statement of claim filed in November 2004, Michaud initially sought a declaration that the Director’s three orders were made without jurisdiction and null and void. He later amended his action on December 23, 2008 to include a claim for $113,175 being the value of the grain destroyed, alleging that the destruction of the grain was pursuant to an order made without jurisdiction or unreasonably implemented.
The case before the Court of Queen's Bench actually came as an appeal from an earlier dismissal of the action by a Master (not a Judge, but an administrative official that exercises some of the functions of a judge). On the appeal of the dismissal by Michaud, the Department put before the Court the fact that Michaud had been convicted of a number of criminal offences including arson arising from the fire at his farm. The Court agreed with Michaud's lawyer that the convictions were irrelevant to the issue at hand. However, that still didn't save the action. The Director had made its decision and the only way to challenge that decision was through an appeal process or an application for judicial review. Failing success on those challenges, Michaud was not permitted to sue the province on the basis that the Director's orders should not have been issued in the first place.
Read the decision at: Michaud v. Government of Manitoba.