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B.C. Court of Appeal Rejects Vancouver Aquarium’s Attempt to Silence Documentary

Animal Justice November 15, 2017

VANCOUVER – National animal law organization Animal Justice is applauding a B.C. Court of Appeal decision that overturns an injunction issued at the request of the Vancouver Aquarium against documentary filmmaker Gary Charbonneau.

The case is an appeal from a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by the Vancouver Aquarium against Charbonneau over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposes the cruelty of keeping sentient whales and dolphins in captivity at the Aquarium. The Aquarium sued Mr. Charbonneau for alleged copyright violations, and sought an injunction to remove the film from the internet. In April 2016, the injunction judge ordered that several minutes of footage must be removed from the film.

Animal Justice intervened in the case out of concern that the lawsuit could affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty in Canada. Legal experts have called the Aquarium’s lawsuit an abuse of copyright law and an illegitimate attempt to silence free speech on a matter of public importance.

Animal Justice argued that if the injunction were not overturned, secretive animal use industries would be emboldened to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty. The BC Civil Liberties Association also intervened in the appeal.

Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, said:

“Today’s decision is an incredible victory for animals and free speech. Animal Justice intervened in the case to ensure the Aquarium’s lawsuit would not give industries another tool to silence whistleblowers and undercover investigations. It is critical to protect individuals who film and expose hidden cruelty in aquariums, zoos, farms, and other animal use industries.

“The Court of Appeal acknowledged Animal Justice’s contribution to the case, and the importance of protecting individuals who seek to bring public scrutiny to animal cruelty issues.

“This decision is the latest nail in the coffin of the cruel aquarium industry. As the public wakes up to the suffering that cetaceans endure when confined in tiny tanks, citizens are demanding that lawmakers ban keeping whales and dolphins in tanks at aquariums.”

In May, 2017 the Vancouver Park Board banned the Aquarium from the future acquisition, breeding, or performance of whale and dolphins. The Aquarium is challenging the bylaw in a separate court case that will conclude during the first week of December, 2017. Animal Justice will make intervener submissions in that proceeding as well.

The Senate of Canada is currently considering Bill S-203, which would impose a national ban on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

Animal Justice was represented in the intervention by Bryan McLean of Lindsay LLP.


The B.C. Court of Appeal decision can be read here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice



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Montreal Just Elected an Animal-Friendly Mayor

Animal Justice November 6, 2017

Animals won big-time in Montreal’s municipal elections this weekend! Voters elected mayoral candidate Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal, and sent incumbent mayor Denis Coderre packing. Not only does mayor-elect Plante become the first woman to lead Montreal, she is also promising to make animal protection a priority while in office.

Animal protection laws were a hot topic in Montreal in the lead-up to the elections. Outgoing mayor Coderre has a bad track record on animals—his administration was heavily criticized by animal advocates for implementing a misguided ban on pit bull-type dogs. The ban is considered unenforceable by authorities, is harmful to dogs, and is widely considered ineffective in making communities safer.

Projet Montréal has committed to repealing the pit bull ban, and implementing fair and effective solutions to promote safer communities through responsible dog care.

Plante’s party has also promised to do away with horse-drawn carriages on city streets. Horses are forced to pull heavy carts in dangerous weather conditions on congested downtown streets, and a series of horse injuries has left many Montrealers calling for an outright ban on the outdated industry.

As the Montreal SPCA’s executive director Élise Saulnier noted, “Citizens of Montreal expect to see big changes in animal welfare and services in their city during the tenure of Mayor Plante.”

Animal protection laws are increasingly becoming a voting issue, and it’s incredibly encouraging that Montreal voters supported a candidate whose party is committed to improving municipal animal protection. The Montreal elections are a clear signal to all politicians that citizens expect our representatives to make animal issues a priority.


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Statement on Animal Cruelty Charges Dropped Against Abusive Vet

Animal Justice November 3, 2017

OTTAWA–National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is dismayed that animal cruelty charges against a St. Catharines veterinarian were dropped today in court.

Dr. Mahavir Rekhi was caught on videotape hitting, choking, and punching animal patients in his clinic. The College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) gave Dr. Rekhi a mere 10-month suspension in Au
gust, 2016 instead of permanently revoking his license. That suspension was reduced to only six months after Dr. Rekhi completed some training. In February, Dr. Rekhi reopened his veterinary clinic, prompting continued public outrage.

Dr. Rekhi was investigated by the Ontario SPCA, which laid 16 counts of criminal animal cruelty.

“Our system failed Dr. Rekhi’s animal victims every step of the way,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Evidence of Dr. Rekhi’s criminal conduct should have been referred to authorities immediately. Instead, the matter was initially dealt with exclusively through a College of Veterinarians of Ontario internal discipline process.

“Next, Dr. Rekhi’s slap-on-the-wrist suspension put him back on the street and in a position to abuse more animals. It was gratifying that criminal charges were laid against Dr. Rekhi after an extensive investigation, because this was the only remaining opportunity to legally protect animals from him. Upon conviction, a judge could have prohibited Dr. Rekhi from having custody or control of an animal.

“Now that the charges against Dr. Rekhi have been withdrawn, the doors of justice have been slammed in the face of vulnerable animals. If our system cannot get a cruelty conviction in a straightforward case with video evidence, what hope is there for animals in more marginal situations?”

It has been reported that part of the rationale for withdrawing the charges includes that investigators sought out information from the CVO without first receiving a complaint. However, Animal Justice filed a complaint with authorities immediately after the abuse videos came to light, and it has been reported that at least one guardian of an animal abused by Dr. Rekhi also filed a complaint.


For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director

Animal Justice

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