TORONTO — An unidentified person named in court documents in connection to an alleged bread price-fixing scheme between retailers and baked-goods suppliers has won the right to retain privacy.
The decision from Superior Court Judge Lynn Ratushny follows arguments made by a media consortium in late April to unseal the redacted paragraphs of a Competition Bureau affidavit in the case that was made partially public in January.
The affidavit formed the basis for four search warrants carried out by Competition Bureau investigators last year at the head offices of suppliers Canada Bread and Weston Bakeries and the retailers Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Walmart and Giant Tiger.
Lawyer Scott Fenton, who represented a former Canada Bread employee named in the redacted portions and known to the public as “Person X,” argued that without revealing the identity of Person X, the public would still have “a full, robust understanding of the informational basis for the search warrant … (and) prevent prejudice to (Person X) as an innocent person.” Fenton argued that his client maintains innocence, and noted no charges have been filed in the case.
The judge agreed.
“I agree the applicant is properly characterized under (a section of Canada’s Criminal Code) as an ‘innocent person,’ claiming that its interests would be prejudiced by the disclosure of its identity,” Ratushny wrote in her decision, released Wednesday.
“The applicant was not searched as a result of the search warrants. The applicant was an employee of Canada Bread for a small fraction of time of the alleged illegal activity. The applicant is implicated in the alleged price-fixing by one person’s remembrance of one conversation that occurred over a decade earlier. That remembrance remains untested. No charges have been laid. The investigation is ongoing and in its early stages. The applicant’s name has not been made public. The presumption of innocence prevails.”
The court documents unsealed in February alleged Canada Bread and Weston, the country’s top two bread producers, participated in a price-fixing scheme with major grocery retailers including Loblaw, Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger that inflated the price of bread by at least $1.50 between 2001 and 2015 and could have stretched as far as 2017.
The Competition Bureau investigation began in March 2015 after whistleblowers at Weston and Loblaw approached the federal department in order to disclose their participation in the alleged scheme.
Loblaw and George Weston were granted immunity from prosecution after reporting the alleged collusion to federal authorities. Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger have all denied participating in the alleged scheme and Walmart Canada has declined comment, citing the ongoing Competition Bureau investigation.
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