A Yukon territorial court judge has ordered a Yukon man to pay $36,000 to cover the cost of cleaning up an oil spill he caused in 2014, but it seems unlikely the government will get its money back.
Romeo Leduc was found guilty Dec. 7 of breaching the Environment Act and the Forest Resources Act by not cleaning up an oil spill from April 2014 on a woodlot near Haines Junction. Leduc was harvesting wood from the lot at the time.
He was ordered to pay $36,000 of the $42,000 the remediation is expected to cost.
But Leduc didn’t show up to court for his trial and it seems he has left town.
On Tuesday he didn’t show up for another trial, where he was convicted of illegally harvesting an elk.
In a long email to the News, Leduc claims he sold the woodlot, and that the responsibility for the clean-up falls on the new owner.
The email is riddled with profanities towards the Yukon government, the justice system, and Crown prosecutors. He called government employees “prostitutes” because he claims they knew he was innocent but were afraid to lose their “welfare cheque” from Ottawa.
In a draft affidavit he sent to the News he says he has left the territory.
On Tuesday he was fined $3,000 and received a four-year hunting ban for illegally harvesting an elk.
In an email to a natural resource officer back in April 2016, Leduc said he was going to shut down his company, Duke Ventures, which was also convicted for the oil spill.
“If the Yukon government wants to waste the taxpayer money to try to collect to get blood from a dead horse go ahead,” he wrote. “If I do anything to defend it will be with a countersuit.”
Crown lawyer Megan Seiling told the court last week that Leduc did show up for his first appearances, but inexplicably left the courtroom at some point, leaving behind the copies of disclosure documents the prosecutor had just handed him.
Just because Leduc left the territory doesn’t mean the government can’t get its money back, lawyer Graham Lang told the News.
“What you want to do is convert (the Yukon judgment) to a judgment in another jurisdiction,” he said.
But that process can be onerous depending where Leduc moved.
“It depends on the piece of legislation in the target province,” Lang said.
The Yukon judgment is good for about 10 years, so the government’s got some time.
Converting judgments is common practice in the Yukon when dealing with Outside companies doing business in the territory, Lang said.
But in the Leduc case, even if the government converts its judgment, it still needs to figure out what assets it can seize from him.
“The best you can do is go down (to where he lives) and try to garnish his wages and bank account,” Lang said.
The government, he said, has to assess whether it’s worth it — in other words, whether it can recoup more money than it will spend on legal fees.
The government also runs the risk of having to convert judgments in multiple jurisdictions if Leduc keeps moving.
“It can be difficult chasing an individual around the block, especially one who is very movable: he is not tied to one location,” Lang said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the News it wouldn’t comment on whether it will try to get the money back.
However, the government has one advantage over Leduc, Lang said: the internet.
“Back in the day it was a lot easier to skip town,” he said. “The government’s got a guy who sits in an office with a list of names and once a month he pumps them into an internet database,” he said.
If Leduc resurfaces in another jurisdiction, he can expect to get some warm government greetings.
It’s not the first time Leduc has made headlines for his disrespect of Yukon environmental rules.
In 2014 he was fined $2,000 for pouring water into a bear’s den. The bear was on his woodlot, and the government ordered him not to log around it.
Leduc instead poured 40 litres of water down the den, bringing a friend with a 12-gauge shotgun in case the bear was in a bad mood. It was, and the man fired a shotgun in the air to scare the bear off.
Leduc didn’t show up for the trial, appealed the decision and didn’t show up for the appeal. His conviction was upheld.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org