A court in BC dismissed Okanagan farmers’ claims that mandatory levies on ambrosia apples violated their constitutional rights and ordered them to pay over $30,000 in late fees. .
In a ruling delivered earlier this month in Kelowna District Court, Judge Andrew Tam ruled on the dispute, explaining why fees are charged and why they are permitted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. bottom.
The New Fruit Tree Variety Development Council had sued Devin Jell, Janine Jell, Gartrell Heritage Farms and Sun-Oka orchards for taxes dating back to 2016 and 2017. It was $31,621.78.
In a counterargument, the farmers did not have to pay those fees and should be refunded the fees they paid in 2018 and 2019, totaling $37,419.98.
The core of the constitutional challenge was that all Canadians have the right to freedom of association.
“Defendants do not say they are prohibited from associating with others. Rather, their complaint is that they are being forced to associate with the council through the payment of tax levies,” Tam wrote. points out that all rights have limitations, and if the discussion succeeds, it will have broad implications.
“If the defendant’s analysis is correct, then anyone can contest the payment of taxes because they don’t want to be associated with the government agency that imposes them. That’s not how it works.” Living in a democratic society, and living in a democratic society, is a clear premise of the Charter,” Tam later added.
New Nut Variety Development Council
The council was established by a group of growers in 2000, shortly after the ambrosia apple was first developed, the court heard.
“In the past, a lack of interest from key industry participants has prevented new breeds from achieving commercial success,” the judge said.
“Unless it reaches a certain critical mass where it makes business sense to sell the product, the fruit will not be sold and may remain rotting in warehouses.”
Tax levies were collected to fund the Council’s activities. This included making radio and television advertisements, billboards to promote apples, and reaching out to packers and grocery stores.
It also funded fruit research, including “extensive work to give the fruit a red color and improve its appearance,” the decision said.
Councils still exist, but taxes are no longer collected.
Tam pointed out that the fee itself was the only real requirement associated with the council when considering whether the council and its mandatory tax collection violated the Charter.
“Defendants are not required to attend meetings. There is absolutely no political or other ’cause’ associated with this entire exercise.” Defendants are free to conduct their own marketing while the Council engages in marketing activities for ambrosia apples. And to form our own group for that purpose,” Tam said.
The fee-based affiliation with the council was not voluntary, but Tam said it was constitutional because it “does not threaten core liberty interests.”
Furthermore, the judge found that the establishment and activities of the council likely helped ambrosia apples to become commercially viable in BC and beyond.
“I don’t think it’s open to the defendants to say now that a council was never needed in the first place because they reaped the fruits of their labor,” he said.
The farmers were ordered to pay the outstanding fees and their claims for refunds were denied.