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Vegan Firefighter Claims Discrimination in Groundbreaking Case

Animal Justice May 21, 2019

TORONTO – In a novel case, a vegan firefighter is suing his employer for failing to provide him with vegan food while he was deployed out-of-province in a remote location.

Adam Knauff, an 11-year veteran of Ontario’s provincial firefighting force, was sent to Williams Lake, B.C. in 2017 to help tame the forest fires that ravaged the area that summer and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. For ten days, Mr. Knauff worked long hours in physically demanding conditions, yet faced a severe lack of vegan food in the basecamp where he was stationed.

Mr. Knauff was frequently served meals that contained meat or dairy products, which he cannot eat; meals that were nutritionally inadequate and contained no source of protein; and was sometimes given no food at all. He repeatedly attempted to work with management to improve the situation, but it did not improve. After expressing his frustration that he could not eat, he was sent home, disciplined, and suspended without pay for a period of time.

Mr. Knauff’s application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario raises a novel issue—whether his beliefs as an ethical vegan are protected under Ontario’s Human Rights Code as a form of “creed”. Mr. Knauff has been vegan for over 20 years to avoid causing suffering to animals. The Tribunal has not yet ruled on this important issue, so Mr. Knauff’s case could break new ground. Until recently, creed was thought to be the same as religion. But in 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission overhauled its creed policy, stating, “Creed may also include non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life.”

Ethical veganism is a belief system that seeks to avoid harming other animals, and ethical vegans typically choose not to eat animal-based foods like meat, fish dairy, and eggs; or wear clothing made with animal products like fur, leather, wool, and silk.

“I am vegan because I don’t want to harm or kill animals,” said Mr. Knauff. “For over 20 years, this belief system has influenced every aspect of my life, and has made me hyper-aware of the global epidemic of animal abuse, particularly the industrial-scale slaughter of animals for food. I know I can live healthfully and happily on this planet without hurting or killing fellow animals, so I choose not to. My beliefs should be respected, including while I am at work fighting forest fires. Veganism has incredible potential to change the world by promoting compassion and respect for others, and this should be celebrated—not punished, shunned or belittled.”

“More and more people are shunning animal products out of recognition that industrial use of animals causes unconscionable animal suffering,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “The world is changing, and it’s important for employers to respect the sincerely-held beliefs of vegans. In modern times, secular beliefs like ethical veganism can be just as important to one person as religious beliefs are to another person.”

Mr. Knauff is represented by lawyer Wade Poziomka of Ross & McBride LLP. Animal Justice will request to intervene in Mr. Knauff’s case, to provide the Tribunal with perspective on the growth of ethical veganism, the belief system behind it, and why it is important for ethical vegans to benefit from human rights protections.

Animal Justice was a driving force behind the Commission’s new creed policy, and regularly assists vegans who face discrimination in the workplace, at schools and daycares, and in other circumstances.

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An article by Animal Justice explaining the importance of “creed” for ethical vegans is available here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Senate Moves to Include Whale Captivity & Shark Fin Ban in Government Fisheries Bill

Animal Justice May 15, 2019

The Canadian government is taking firm steps to ensure that whale captivity and the shark fin trade are banned before the next election.

Senator Peter Harder, government representative in the Senate, introduced amendments at the Senate Fisheries Committee this week to Bill C-68, government fisheries legislation. The amendments incorporate a whale and dolphin captivity ban, which is also proposed in Bill S-203, and a ban on the trade of shark fins, which is also proposed in Bill S-238. Both of these private members bills have received considerable support from Canadians, and are currently being considered by the House of Commons. However, time is running out for the House of Commons to pass the bills before the end of June, when Parliament wraps up and election season begins.

By including these protections for whales, dolphins, and sharks in Bill C-68, the government fisheries bill, there is an even stronger chance that these important measures will become law before the parliamentary session ends.

Once Bill C-68 clears the Senate Fisheries Committee, it will be debated and voted on by the Senate, and will then be re-approved by the House of Commons.

Animal Justice applauds the government for its efforts to make sure cruel whale and dolphin captivity is outlawed, and that the brutal trade in shark fin products is eliminated in Canada.

 

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Bill to Outlaw Bestiality & Animal Fighting Passes House of Commons Vote

Animal Justice May 9, 2019

The House of Commons voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass Bill C-84, government legislation that would outlaw all forms of bestiality, and close loopholes related to animal fighting.

Bill C-84 was introduced last year in response to the 2016 Supreme Court case of R v DLW, which found that Canada’s laws are so outdated that most forms of bestiality are not currently illegal. Animal Justice intervened in the case to fight on behalf of animals, and has been pushing for action to close the disturbing bestiality loophole ever since then.

Now, Bill C-84 will go to the Senate for further debate, study, and voting. The end of the Parliamentary session is only weeks away, and if the Senate doesn’t pass the bill before the end of June, it will die when Parliament rises for the summer break and fall election.

In addition to outlawing all forms of bestiality, the legislation also improves laws against animal fighting. Animal Justice testified in support of Bill C-84 at the House of Commons Justice Committee, and made two recommendations that the Committee ultimately accepted—to allow judges to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals, and to eliminate a mandatory death sentence currently imposed on roosters rescued from cockfighting rings.

Although Bill C-84 is a step in the right direction, it is narrow in scope and is only a small effort toward improving Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws. During the debate that preceded the House of Commons vote, representatives from all parties repeatedly highlighted the importance of protecting animals, improving Canada’s legal protections for animals, and advancing animal rights more generally. Many MPs pushed the government to uphold its promise to overhaul Canada’s animal cruelty laws, and spoke in support of striking an all-party committee to examine the issue.

As Liberal MP Anthony Housefather stated during the debate, “Animal cruelty laws in Canada need to be vastly improved. We have laws that were adopted in the 1890s, slightly amended in the 1950s and they have unfortunately not been radically revamped in the world we live in today where most of us recognize that animals should not be treated as pure property. Animals are sentient beings. Animals can suffer. Most animals have the ability to know whether they are feeling pain. Today, our animal cruelty laws are, unfortunately, many years behind the times.”

 

 

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