VANCOUVER- Less than two months after Ecojustice launched a lawsuit against the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia for its refusal to investigate a 2013 complaint made by their client, biologist Alexandra Morton, the College has confirmed that it will conduct an investigation.
In 2007, a government veterinarian gave misleading advice to the B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Lands regarding threats posed by a dangerous salmon virus called Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (“ISAV”). ISAV has killed millions of salmon and caused massive losses to aquaculture industries in Chile, eastern Canada, and Norway. The veterinarian advised the Minister that B.C. was at low risk from this virus because Atlantic salmon eggs are not imported to the province. In fact, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reports that millions of Atlantic salmon eggs have been legally imported to B.C.
Morton requested that the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia investigate whether the veterinarian’s incorrect advice amounted to professional misconduct. The College twice declined to investigate, at which point she decided to take legal action.
“I brought this case because the College of Veterinarians of B.C. has to hold veterinarians to the highest ethical and scientific standards when they are giving advice about potentially catastrophic animal diseases,” says Morton. “A strong College that makes well-informed decisions will help assure the public that veterinarians are working at the highest standards to prevent disease outbreaks.”
The College has appointed an investigator to the file and Ms. Morton will be dropping the lawsuit in response to the College’s decision to investigate the complaint.
“It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to make it happen, but we are pleased that the College has done the right thing and will be looking into our client’s complaint,” says Morgan Blakley, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “This is an important victory that will help ensure that the B.C. government receives accurate, reliable veterinary advice on the dangerous diseases introduced by salmon aquaculture operations.”