Crown Immunity in a Food Crisis: A Consideration of the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak in Canada

Shelley L Miller, Shauna N Finlay


In Canadian law, the question of whether agents for federal and provincial governments can be liable to consumers in negligence has traditionally been resolved in the negative. However, when many Canadians suddenly fell ill and others died due to exposure to listeria-infected meat products in mid-2008, the ensuing public health crisis and criticism of the government agency that handled it obliged the Prime Minister to call for an investigation and report upon the conduct of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In the context of the unfolding investigation, the authors examine the underlying rationale and policy reasons for the Canadian courts’ doctrine of Crown immunity and whether the time might be ripe for policy change in circumstances like those which gave rise to the losses caused by listeriosis.

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