Former fish-plant owners lose lawsuit against RCMP over Shippagan riots

Former fish plant owners have been ordered to pay $209,000 in legal costs after a judge dismissed a lawsuit they filed when their plant burned down in a riot.

The Daley Brothers sued the RCMP for over $36 million, alleging the police force allowed a riot in Shippagan in 2003 to get out of control. 

In a decision last week, Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette of the Court of Queen's Bench in Moncton sided with the Mounties, dismissing the claim and calling some of their requests "ridiculous," and "absolutely without merit."

The CBC has not been able to reach Terry Daley or his lawyer, Michel St-Pierre.

On May 2, 2003, arson destroyed Les Fruits de Mer Shippagan Ltée, along with some traps for snow crab fishing, a warehouse, and a crab processing plant. Three Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada boats, on loan to Elsipogtog First Nation, as well as another boat, also burned up that day.

The fish plant manager was assaulted and his vehicle vandalized.

CBC

Hundreds of angry fishermen from the Acadian Peninsula were involved in the riots, which began as a protest against the federal government's move to reduce their crab quotas to recognize the First Nations' right to live off fishing. Later, several rioters were brought to court and admitted their guilt.

In 2005, the Daley Brothers filed their claim against the RCMP, alleging officers failed to protect their property that was burned down. They claimed the RCMP should have known "serious civil disobedience" would occur when DFO announced its plan.

Breakdown of demands

The $38 million the company was asking for included about $9 million for the building and equipment loss. 

It also included $7 million for "loss of Shippagan plant goodwill" and $17 million for "loss of goodwill" that caused the bankruptcy of the brothers' distribution conglomerate Sea Treat Ltd.

Loss of goodwill means losing clients and reputation because of a certain event, which was the fire in this case.

In his decision, Ouellette said "there is no basis" for Sea Treat to claim $17.4 million.

Sea Treat marketed the catch of 11 plants the Daley Brothers owned. The 12th plant in Shippagan burned down before it started operations. 

Ouellette said it "defies belief," that the loss of a plant that never operated caused $17 million in damage to Sea Treat.

He said the Shippagan plant was also never rebuilt. 

"As it never operated, it is ridiculous to claim over $7 million for goodwill," Ouellette wrote. "Goodwill, why?

The Daleys were also asking for $3 million in "special damages" from 2003 to 2007.

"This claim is absolutely without merit and no evidence was adduced to justify such a claim," Ouellette wrote.

Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC

In an interview, federal Crown attorney Toni Abi Nasr, said the RCMP is happy with the result and breathing a sigh of relief now that it's over.

"We find that the judgment can help our people, our officers, all the people that were operating on the ground to turn, finally, this page," he said.

"We heard many things like 'the RCMP was negligent.' … When you look at the file in a professional way you see that they couldn't have done anything different."

Terry Daley testified the RCMP "had been complicit in these events, covered up the facts and acted in bad faith," Ouellette wrote.

"These accusations against the RCMP are unfounded."

Ouellette said the 110 police officers on the ground, spread across the area, were "never sufficient to stop this riot."

There were at least 21 court dates for the case in 2018 and 2019, and between 15 and 20 witnesses were scheduled to testify.

The company previously sued the Town of Shippagan for $50 million, alleging negligence, but settled out of court last year for less than $5 million.