Environmental offences and penalties

Region: Ontario Answer # 374

Who can be held responsible?

The directors and senior officers of a corporation have a legal duty to ensure that the company’s activities comply with the law. The officers and directors can be held personally responsible for environmental offences caused by anyone in the organization, including individual employees.

Employees who break environmental laws can also be held legally responsible for their actions. Shareholders who are not officers or employees of the company will not normally be held responsible, unless they have taken an active role in the management of the company.

Strict liability

A corporation or its directors can be held responsible for environmental offences even if they did not intend to commit the offence. This is sometimes referred to as ‘strict liability.’ However, the corporation or its directors may not be held responsible if they used “due diligence.” Due diligence generally means that someone took all reasonable care to avoid the harm.



The penalties for committing an environmental offence can include: paying the cost of the clean-up, fines for the corporation or the individuals involved, jail terms for the individuals involved, revoking licences, and stripping the company of profit it earned as a result of the offence.

Getting advice

If you need additional information about environmental law in Ontario, visit theĀ Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

For legal advice, contact an environmental law lawyer.

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