Canada’s authoritarian stance against animal rights

Canada’s authoritarian stance against animal rights

How Ottawa stifles animal activists

By SILVER DONALD CAMERON
Sun, Mar 6 – 4:53 AM

“Canada,” said the U.S. journalist, “is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.” 

Another comment on Bev Oda and the garrotting of Kairos? Nope.

A reflection on the Harperites’ infatuation with harsh sentences and larger prisons? No.

Kyoto, Afghan detainees, the G20 repression, the flouting of the Supreme Court in the Omar Khadr case? Our humiliating defeat in the UN Security Council election? Could have been, but in fact it’s none of the above.

No, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, published in Clinton, Wash., is writing about the federal government’s denial of free speech to animal welfare charities in Canada. And he’s in touch with animal rights activists in China. He knows what they think.

“On February 5, 2011,” writes Clifton, the Canada Revenue Agency published “draft regulations governing animal charities which would ensure that any animal charity speaking out against anything that is not already illegal would lose nonprofit status.”

One specific example: the regulations make it clear that a Canadian animal charity would lose its charitable status if it opposed vivisection, which is the practice of operating on living animals in order to gain knowledge of pathological or physiological processes. A charity could suffer the same fate if it opposed the fur industry or the seal hunt.

In fact, says Clifton, the draft regulations provide “that an animal charity may only advocate policies and practices which benefit humans more than animals.”

Really? I hustled off to the CRA website. Sure enough, that’s exactly what the draft regulations say. The logic, if one can call it that, derives from British common law. The courts, says CRA, have determined that “an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities, including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical development of the community.”

But don’t try to argue that supporting animal welfare is a good thing in and of itself. “Promoting the welfare of animals,” the CRA declares, “is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans.”

“Promoting the welfare of animals,” the CRA declares, “is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans.”

With respect to vivisection, says the CRA, the courts have decided that “seeking to abolish vivisection is not charitable. This is in part because, as the courts have put it, despite the suffering inflicted on animals, the ‘immense and incalculable benefits which have resulted from vivisection’ and the ‘positive and calamitous detriment of appalling magnitude’ that would result from its abolition, outweigh any possible promotion of the moral and ethical development of the community.”

The gaping flaw in the CRA’s argument, of course, is that it freezes — indeed, prevents — the evolution of the law. The law reflects the moral consensus of the community at a particular moment in time. When the consensus changes, the law must change as well. The law once decreed that women were chattels, slavery was fine, and petty theft warranted hanging. When society reversed its thinking on these matters, the law eventually reversed its position, too.

The CRA argues, in effect, that charitable purposes can only reflect the past — the decisions that the courts have already made. But the very phrase “the moral and ethical development of the community” concedes that moral and ethical attitudes evolve. That’s what the word “development” means. And if moral attitudes have evolved, then someone who demands corresponding changes in the law is very precisely “promoting the moral and ethical development of the community.”

A growing body of opinion now holds that we will not achieve our human potential — or even survive — unless we develop a respectful, ethical relationship with the rest of nature. The coyote, the cod and the chestnut have a right to live and flourish, and advocating on their behalf — with or without a benefit to humans — is a deeply moral activity and a legitimate charitable purpose.

Do the Harperites disagree? We’ll never know. They ignore ideas, and attack people instead. Lie about them. Impugn their motives. Cut their funding. Dissolve their organizations. Imprison them. Deny them charitable status.

“Canada is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.”

A chilling remark. I wish I could claim it was wrong.


reprinted from the Chronicle Herald

Download the article | Read the CRA draft


Support GOOD Animal Cruelty Legislation!

Support GOOD Animal Cruelty Legislation!

Canadians must speak out to stop the passage of ineffective, outdated animal cruelty legislation from being passed in our House of Commons.

BILL S-203

Bill S-203 is a private member’s bill in the Senate. It has passed the Senate, passed Second Reading in the House and is awaiting debate by the Justice and Human Rights Committee, likely this fall.

Bill S-203 makes NO changes to today’s archaic and wholly inadequate offences; it will only increase the penalties. Increased penalties are important, but ultimately meaningless when the offences are so problematic that many cases can’t even be prosecuted.

Bill S-203

* makes it difficult to prosecute cases of neglect, even when dozens of animals have been starved to death
* allows the training of animals for dog fights, cockfights or other types of animal fighting
* permits killing stray or wild animals for no particular reason
* provides extra protection for cattle and other animals and less protection for stray or wild animals
* doesn’t make it a crime to kill animals brutally or viciously
* considers animal cruelty a property offence
* doesn’t offer specific protection for law enforcement animals

BILL C-229 (formerly titled C-373)

Bill C-229 (formerly known as Bill C-373), a private member’s bill in the House, would fix all of the above problems, as well as increase the penalties. This bill is virtually identical to one that came excruciatingly close to being passed in 2003 when it was supported unanimously in the House of Commons.

That bill was also supported by a huge number of animal use industries representing farmers, trappers and scientific researchers, as well as veterinarians, police associations and animal protection groups.

Unfortunately, the Senate stood in the way of that bill and then it died when Parliament dissolved.

Here’s what you can do to help

PETITIONS

You can participate in our petition drive by signing the online petition or printing the paper version of the petition and circulating it in your area.

PLEASE NOTE! Paper and ink petitions are way more effective and carry much more weight in the House of Commons! Canadian residents, please be sure to print, sign and send in paper petition as well if at all possible!

LETTERS

Send a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to PASS Bill C-229 to amend the Animal Cruelty Law. Or download this one, sign it, include your address and mail it to him.