Toronto, Ont. – Today, the Government of Canada laid criminal charges against Volkswagen for unlawfully importing and selling nearly 128,000 rigged diesel vehicles containing an emission cheating device.
“We are very pleased that the federal government is finally laying criminal charges against Volkswagen, a company that knowingly cheated Canadians and polluted our air,” says Tim Gray, Executive Director with Environmental Defence. “Now the Courts must ensure that the company pays the real price of this unprecedented environmental and public health crime.”
The charges involve the importation of nearly 128,000 vehicles that violated vehicle emissions standards and providing misleading information to the public. The charges include 60 counts of contravening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), a federal law that governs the regulation of vehicle emissions.
“It is encouraging to see the federal government use the full powers of CEPA to hold polluters to account,” says Amir Attaran, Ecojustice lawyer. “However, we asked Environment and Climate Change Canada to investigate the parent Volkswagen in Germany and all its Canadian subsidiaries. In the United States, Volkswagen’s subsidiaries were investigated and prosecuted. Canadian subsidiaries of Volkswagen must not be left off the hook for their environmental crimes.”
These charges come more than four years after the government launched its investigation into Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. In 2017, Ecojustice attorneys went to court on behalf of Environmental Defence staff to compel the federal government to conduct meaningful and transparent investigations into environmental violations committed by the company and its subsidiaries in Canada.
The company has since then paid billions of dollars in criminal fines in the United States and other countries, much of which was used to pay for much-needed pollution prevention infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations. Volkswagen also signed a plea agreement with a U.S. court that precludes the company from pleading not guilty if prosecuted in other countries including in Canada.
Canadian prosecutors should now seek significant fines commensurate with the massive scale of environmental crimes committed by the company and in keeping with the billions of levies collected in other jurisdictions. They should ensure that these fines are invested in initiatives that can help accelerate Canada’s transition to a cleaner economy such as building an electric vehicle charging network.