The Fraser Valley undercover chicken abuse case is slowly making its way through the court system with a pre-trial conference scheduled for August followed by a jury trial in the fall.
Lawyers for the defendants in the 2017 undercover video case were in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on June 15 then again in June 18. The matter was put over to a pre-trial conference in New Westminster on August 13, followed by a preliminary inquiry on Sept. 28.
Both are standard hearings in advance of a complicated trial.
Chilliwack-based Elite Farm Services Ltd., the company’s owner Dwayne Paul Dueck, and Ontario-based Sofina Foods will like go to a jury trial some time after that unless a resolution can be worked out in the meantime.
The charges date from 2017 when California-based animal rights activist group Mercy For Animals released undercover video filmed at multiple Fraser Valley farms showing employees ripping live birds apart, stomping and throwing chickens.
Incidents on the file make allegations of abuse at farms in Langley, Abbotsford, Lindell Beach, Aldergrove, Chilliwack and Surrey.
Elite, Dueck and Sofina were each charged with 38 counts under the Health of Animal Regulations in connection with the alleged abuse. The number of charges has been reduced, but after the incidents, employees were fired, the companies expressed dismay at the actions of those employees, and the BC Chicken Marketing Board expressed disgust at the practices seen in the video.
Uncertainty over the editing and access to the undercover video proved to be the source of numerous delays in the case as defence counsel awaited proper disclosure from the Crown. Defence lawyers said that without certainty whether or not the video had been edited, they could not properly decide whether they should face judge and jury or judge alone.
Judge Gary Cohen expressed concern to all parties about the delays, and he essentially ordered defence to make a decision on August 28, 2019 or he said he would make an election for them. It was that day when the three decided on a jury trial.
Cohen’s concern stemmed from the Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision that mandates trials in provincial court need to be resolved in 18 months, and 30 months in Supreme.
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