Judge rules 93 Husky oil spill documents to remain sealed

A judge has ruled that 93 documents pertaining to the 2016 Husky Energy pipeline spill will remain sealed.

Federal government applied to have access to documents, judge ruled documents protected under privilege

About 225,000 litres of oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River after a Husky Energy pipeline leak in 2016. (Matthew Garand/CBC)

A judge has ruled that some documents pertaining to the 2016 Husky Energy pipeline spill will remain sealed.

Lawyers for Environment and Climate Change Canada had applied to the court to gain access to documents created by Husky in the weeks and months following the spill. Lawyers for Husky argued the documents were protected by either solicitor-client privilege or litigation privilege.

While Justice J.D. Kalmakoff ruled that three of the documents were not protected, he ruled 93 should remain out of the hands of government lawyers.

On July 21, 2016, a leaking Husky Energy pipeline spilled 225,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River, prompting a massive cleanup. 

Soon after, lawyers from the federal government obtained a warrant demanding records from the company, including Husky's internal investigation records.

However, Husky maintained 96 of those 25,000 documents should be protected, as they either contained legal advice between Husky and its lawyers or documents that were written in preparation of a future lawsuit.

The documents include records relating to Husky's internal investigation of the spill, records about control room and alarm histories and expert reports.

While the Crown argued that Husky was obligated to investigate the spill and report the findings to authorities, the judge sided with Husky that the reports were being drafted to prepare for an upcoming lawsuit, and should be protected.

The decision notes that any information Husky uses in any future trial would "likely be viewed in a different light." Any documents protected by litigation privilege would not be protected after any civil lawsuits were resolved.

In July, the James Smith First Nation launched a lawsuit claiming that government inaction was at least partly to blame for the spill.

As of yet, there have been no criminal charges laid against Husky Energy for the spill.