by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A London, Ontario information technology specialist involved in legal actions against several players in Ontario’s egg industry faces a stiff penalty for contempt of court.
In July, Ontario Superior Court Justice P.D. Lauwers found self-described whistleblower Norman Bourdeau in contempt for keeping copies of documents about his former employer and disseminating them after another judge had told him not to. Bourdeau has appealed the decision.
Bourdeau’s former employer is L.H. Gray and Son, Ontario’s second largest egg grader. The Strathroy business is one of many provincial egg industry players named in a lawsuit brought about by Blackstock, Ontario-based Sweda Farms Ltd., and its related business ventures.
Bourdeau has challenged the integrity of business practices within the province’s supply-managed egg industry and asked provincial and federal authorities to investigate. He is a witness for Sweda. He and his former employer are also embroiled in legal actions in London.
On Monday, Lauwers fixed a penalty to the contempt finding against Bourdeau: a $5,000 fine and $58,000 in court costs.
“Mr. Bourdeau must be brought to the understanding that this entire process is not more or less a private one, part of an ongoing war with his former employer L.H. Gray in which he is the righteous whistleblower,” Lauwers writes in his decision. Once Bourdeau was told to return all documents about his former employer to a supervising solicitor, “the court was fully engaged and Mr. Bourdeau’s conduct was required to be scrupulous,” Lauwers continues. “The outrageous cat-and-mouse game that he played was actually being played with the court. The public must be confident that the court will not permit self-righteousness to stand as a proper ground for trifling with and for failing to comply with a court order.”
Bourdeau will appeal the decision April 30 in the Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto. He says it could be months before a decision is issued. In the meantime, Lauwers’ penalty decision is stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Bourdeau, who has claimed to be without a lawyer for several months, referred questions about the decision to his agent. The agent, J. Gardner Hodder, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in civil and business litigation, describes his role as being similar to a lawyer of record. However, all of the court documentation has Bourdeau’s name on it because “our office was retained in this matter subsequent to the appeal being perfected,” he explains.
Hodder says he will ask the Court of Appeal “to disagree with Justice Loewers’ decision. So I will be inviting the court to disagree with a great deal of the decision,” including characterizations of Bourdeau’s conduct.
If Bourdeau loses the appeal Lauwers’ decision “will stand,” Hodder says. “I’m not going to comment on my client’s finances,” he responds when asked if Bourdeau would be able to pay the fine if the appeal should fail. BF
Egg case archive