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Charges dropped against former Bracebridge mayor accused of violating Endangered Species Act

Charges against former Bracebridge mayor dropped for allegedly destroying Blanding's turtle's nests and endangering their habitat on Oct. 25, 2022 (Credit: Parks Canada). Charges against former Bracebridge mayor dropped for allegedly destroying Blanding's turtle's nests and endangering their habitat on Oct. 25, 2022 (Credit: Parks Canada).

Charges have been dropped against former Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith for allegations of violating Ontario's Endangered Species Act back in 2021.

Smith, now the Minister of Natural Resources, was accused, along with the municipality and two town employees, of destroying Blanding's turtle's nests and endangering their habitat during a road grading project on Peace Valley Road.

Micheal Opara, who brought forth the charges, claims to have seen a Blanding's turtle in the area on two separate occasions.

On Tuesday, the matter was heard virtually through the Provincial Offences Office in Bracebridge.

Court heard from the agent representing the Ministry of the Attorney General that the charges were reviewed and could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, saying there was insufficient evidence of the turtles being in the area at the time.

"It's unfortunate the town doesn't have the desire to preserve our turtle species," said Opara in court. "It's unfortunate and unfortunate where this has come to. We have a town that doesn't care and doesn't do its job."

CTV News reached out to Graydon Smith for comment but was referred to the municipality.

In a press release, the town said it's "committed to environmental stewardship and protecting the beauty of Muskoka while keeping our roads safe. The town's innocence was shown by the intervention of the crown and withdrawal of these unsubstantiated charges."

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