Private endangered species charges against Ontario cabinet minister dropped

An Ontario town says private charges that alleged a provincial cabinet minister harmed a threatened turtle species while he was mayor have been dropped.

The Town of Bracebridge says the Ontario Ministry for the Attorney General investigated and found no reasonable prospect for conviction on the charges of violating the Endangered Species Act.

Charges brought in a private prosecution alleged that the town and its officials — including former mayor Graydon Smith — harmed Blanding’s turtles and posed danger to the habitat of the at-risk species in 2021.

Smith is now Ontario’s natural resources minister.

The town says it was determined that it could not be proven that road work carried out by the town harmed the turtle species or its habitat.

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It says there was also insufficient evidence of the presence of Blanding’s turtles in the area.

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