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Demanding action against Volkswagen’s illegal emissions cheating

Tim Gray and Muhannad Malas v. Attorney General of Canada

July 24, 2019

In September 2015, news emerged that Volkswagen had installed illegal software in its diesel cars, allowing them to pass emissions testing by misrepresenting how much pollution they typically emit.

The company’s unlawful action resulted in 35 times the approved level of nitrogen oxides spewing from these cars, posing a threat to human health. More than 100, 000 cars with 2.0L diesel engines were imported and sold in Canada based on fraudulent regulatory submissions, all of which is illegal.

Emissions cheating cars are a danger to human health. A study in the United States links these illegal cars and low birth weight and acute asthma attacks in children.

Ecojustice, on behalf of staff at Environmental Defence, applied to open four investigations into Volkswagen’s importation, marketing, approval and sale of diesel cars equipped with the illegal emissions cheating software.

Under sections 17-21 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), citizens can call on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to investigate allegations of criminal activity. Once these allegations have been made, the Minister must investigate the claims.

The group alleged that:

  1. That Volkswagen unlawfully imported noncompliant cars.
    2. That Volkswagen unlawfully applied the National Emissions Mark on noncompliant diesel cars and sold those cars.
    3. That Volkswagen provided false and misleading information.
    4. That Volkswagen and its local dealers unlawfully resumed sales of 2015 model cars after only completing a “half-fix” to the emissions system.

This request triggered the Minister to launch an investigation in 2017 into just the fourth allegation despite CEPA’s requirement that all allegations be investigated.

We filed a lawsuit aimed at ensuring the other three allegations also get investigated (Tim Gray and Muhannad Malas v. Attorney General of Canada). This was followed by a second lawsuit to ensure that we received updates and information regarding the investigation into the fourth allegation — this case has since been rendered moot after Environment and Climate Change Canada issued their final report in September 2020.

Four years after “Diesel-gate” became headline news (and two Ecojustice lawsuits later), the Canadian government finally laid charges against Volkswagen.

But, unlike any normal criminal who is charged by police and has no say in it, federal prosecutors secretly negotiated with Volkswagen about which crimes it agreed to be charged with. This meant that law enforcement officers were only able to charge the company with two previously-agreed criminal counts of misleading regulators and 58 count of criminal importation, rather than the 128,000 counts Volkswagen could have been charged with for each illegal car it sold.

Ecojustice asked for a judicial review to ensure the federal government fully investigated Volkswagen’s criminal activity as required under CEPA.

In January 2021, this request for a full investigation was denied by the Federal Court of Appeals.

Ecojustice staff

Anna McIntosh

Randy Christensen


Environmental Defence

Jan 2021
Volkswagen car in traffic
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Environmental groups pleased Volkswagen prosecuted despite lack of appropriate fine

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Dec 2019
An aerial view of thousands of cars parked in a parking lot.

Volkswagen’s been charged for its emissions fraud, but it’s not nearly enough

The government’s secret deal let’s Volkswagen off easy for its emissions fraud Four years after “Diesel-gate” became headline news (and two Ecojustice lawsuits later), the Canadian government has finally laid charges against Volkswagen for selling some 128,000 diesel cars — each equipped with a secret cheat device that allowed the vehicles to pollute up to.
Oct 2019
Blurry traffic on a road filled with cars at night. The street lights and car lights reflect on the wet black pavement.
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Environmental groups go to court to defend Canadians’ rights to transparent investigation in the Volkswagen diesel scandal

OTTAWA, October 21, 2019 – Ecojustice is in court today on behalf of staff from Environmental Defence to demand that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) proceed with an open and transparent investigation into Volkswagen’s emissions cheating.
Jul 2019
A long line of traffic is stopped on a residential road.
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Environmental groups taking Minister to court again for failing to charge VW for polluting

Toronto July 24 – Ecojustice, on behalf of Environmental Defence staff, has launched a case seeking to hold Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna accountable for failing to transparently investigate Volkswagen’s (VW) sale of emission-cheating diesel cars.
Aug 2018
Blurry traffic on a road filled with cars at night. The street lights and car lights reflect on the wet black pavement.

How Canada could be using billions of dollars to help improve air quality

Volkswagen has yet to be prosecuted federally for its environmental crimes in Canada and we are all losing out over its inaction Around the world as many as 11 million vehicles, equipped with emission-cheating software, were sold to unsuspecting costumers.
May 2018
Volkswagen logo

FAQ: Why we’re fighting to ensure Volkswagen pays for its crimes

In 2017, we started working with our friends at Environmental Defence to ensure Volkswagen is held accountable for cheating the Canadian public and polluting our air.
Aug 2017
Volkswagen car in traffic
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Federal government taken to court for refusing to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions fraud

Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s refusal to investigate Volkswagen’s criminal activity is unlawful OTTAWA – Health professionals and environmental organizations have taken legal action to force the federal government to proceed with an investigation into Volkswagen’s (VW) importation, marketing, and sale of its emissions-cheating diesel vehicles in Canada.