Meg Sears [Anti-Pesticide Advocate] is a Bibliographer not Expert Witness in CFB Gagetown Pesticide Case and at Appeal


It is evident, even in this context, the Trial Division judge relied on Dr. Sears’ exercise of judgment in fields in which she was not qualified to give opinion evidence.  In the first example cited above, Dr. Sears would have to examine the opinion of Dr. Guzelian and other literature and come to an opinion as to whether they were, indeed, in conflict. Dr. Guzelian’s area of expertise is toxicology.  The Trial Division judge declined to declare Dr. Sears an expert in toxicology.

Date: 2010 03 22
Citation: 2010 NLCA 20

[19]         As the Trial Division judge described it, in her affidavit “Dr. Sears commented on affidavits filed by the Third Parties, including the affidavits of Dr. Giesy, Dr. Guzelian, Dr. Mandel and Dr. Wiernik.”  Dr. Sears stated that she had been requested to “locate published literature related to the association between [2,4-D, 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid and picloram] and: (1) Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; (2) Chronic Lymphocytic Lymphoma; (3) Hodgkin Lymphoma; and (4) Soft Tissue Sarcoma.”  Her affidavit included statements of opinion such as :

1.         Dr. Mandel’s statement … is not completely accurate (para 12);

2.         the risk factors or potential alternative causes of illness … are not as numerous or diverse as Dr. Wiernik and Mandel portray (para 13);

3.         Lymphomas have lengthy latency periods, and often do not develop in individuals for decades or more after exposure to causative agents (para. 24);

4.         Scientific uncertainty in epidemiology translates into lower estimation of risks, as the estimate is obscured by confounding or unrecognized factors; (para 29)

5.         There is substantial research demonstrating significant correlations between development of malignancies and exposure to Agent Orange, its components or contaminants (para 32).

6.         There is sufficient evidence for an association between Agent Orange exposure and the malignancies: soft tissue sarcoma; non Hodgkin lymphoma; Hodgkin disease; and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) (para. 46).

Dr. Sears, who was not cross-examined on her affidavit, also stated other conclusions regarding connections between various herbicides and cancer.

[20]         In the Trial Division, the appellants challenged the qualifications of Dr. Sears to give opinion evidence. In short, it was argued that her expertise did not include toxicology, oncology or epidemiology and, therefore, she could not give her opinion regarding the association between chemicals and malignant lymphomas. In his decision, the Trial Division judge referred to Dr. Sears’ qualifications, including an article she had written which discusses the health effects and assessment of the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).  He said, at para. 52:

She is a published research scientist, science analyst and medical writer. She has knowledge and experience in chemical engineering, applied chemistry, industrial hygiene, health and diverse environmental matters.

The Trial Division judge agreed with the appellants’ objections to Dr. Sears’ qualifications in the fields of toxicology, oncology and epidemiology, but he admitted Dr. Sears’ affidavit, saying, at para. 54 of his decision:

… she had sufficient qualifications to act as a bibliographer and identify literature dealing with [the association between chemicals and malignant lymphomas].  This conclusion is a reasonable inference from the fact that she earned a Ph.D. from McGill University.