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Ontario Government Sued Over Inaction on Species Protection

Animal Justice September 20, 2017

Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources has unlawfully delayed recovery strategies for 37 endangered or threatened Ontario species, says animal rights group

TORONTO — National animal law organization Animal Justice, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, is taking legal action to force Ontario Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry to issue recovery strategies for 37 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The mountain lion and Northern Bobwhite, both listed as “endangered” since the ESA became law in 2008, are among the 37 species left in the lurch due to the Minister’s inaction, the group says.

“The Minister’s unlawful delays have left dozens of vulnerable species without the protection they are supposed to have under the law,” said Nick Wright, Animal Justice’s founder and board chair. “More than 10 years have passed since the mountain lion and Northern Bobwhite were listed as endangered. And let’s be clear, endangered means that a species is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.”

A review by Ecojustice found that the Minister has repeatedly violated section 11 of the ESA, which requires the Minister to issue recovery strategies within one and two years of a species being listed endangered or threatened, respectively.

In many cases, such as that of the mountain lion, the Minister has simply, and unlawfully, allowed deadlines to pass by — effectively leaving the vulnerable species with minimal legal protections indefinitely.

In other instances, the Ontario government has delayed protection for endangered and threatened species by hinging its recovery strategies to the federal government’s protection efforts, even when the latter has done little or nothing to protect the species.  For example, the Minister has dithered on her legal obligation to deliver a recovery strategy for the threatened black redhorse — a large river fish — since 2008, stating that she wishes to do so cooperatively with the federal government.  But her reasoning is nonsensical given that the federal government decided a decade ago, in 2007, not to protect the species.

Likewise, for the Northern Bobwhite, the Minister has chosen not to issue Ontario’s recovery strategy, and has instead taken a back seat to the federal government which she claims is “leading the development of recovery strategies”.  Trouble is, the federal government’s legal deadline to issue a recovery strategy for this endangered bird expired in 2006 — 11 years ago. Thus when the Minister says that the federal government is “leading”, what she appears to suggest is that where the federal government is willing to break the law, Ontario is willing to follow.

“The Ministry’s use of the ESA’s flexibility provisions is dubious,” said Amir Attaran, lawyer with Ecojustice’s law clinic at the University of Ottawa. “The province says it wants to cooperate with the federal government, but the nature of these delays has left us wondering if this is cooperation or a conspiracy to break the law.”

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has criticized the government for failing to implement the ESA effectively. In a 2013 report entitled Laying Siege to the Last Line of Defence, the Commissioner noted a “disturbing trend” of the Ministry of Natural Resources “using the ESA’s flexibility provisions to permit broad, open-ended extensions on the development of recovery strategies.” The Commissioner went on to write that the Ministry appeared “comfortable using flexibility provisions not in exceptional circumstances, but as a matter of practice.”

“Ontario touts the ESA as the most progressive endangered species law in North America,” said Attaran. “The Minister’s foot-dragging has rendered this legislation a paper tiger — or in this case, a paper mountain lion — so we’re taking her to court.”

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Animal Justice leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Our lawyers work to pass strong new animal protection legislation, push for the prosecution of animal abusers, and fight for animals in court.

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change and fight for a healthy environment for all.

 

Link to reference

Laying Siege to the Last Line of Defence, 2013

 

For more media inquiries, please contact:

Nick Wright, Founder and Chair of the Board, Animal Justice
nwright@animaljustice.ca
416-915-4139

Amir Attaran, Lawyer, Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa
aattaran@ecojustice.ca
613-562-5800 ext 2015

 

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Animal Justice

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Supreme Court of B.C. Grants Animal Justice & Zoocheck Leave to Intervene in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit

Animal Justice September 11, 2017

VANCOUVER – The Supreme Court of British Columbia has granted Animal Justice and Zoocheck leave to intervene intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The two organizations argued in court for the ability to intervene on Friday, September 8 with the favourable decision coming down late in the day.

The Aquarium is seeking to strike down the Park Board bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park. Animal Justice and Zoocheck will focus on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal argument that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals for entertainment is found to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression, there could be drastic consequences for animals. It would become difficult, if not impossible, to pass laws protecting animals from being confined as those laws would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this disturbing lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “Animal Justice and Zoocheck are pleased the court has recognized that our perspective, on behalf of animals, must be heard. We will argue in court to protect whales and dolphins, and other animals across the country, from the suffering they endure in captivity.”

Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that confining cetaceans should not be considered ‘expression’. The organizations rely on well-established case law stating that expression that is violent or is connected with violence is not protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. Capturing and confining whales and dolphins are forms of violence, in that they involve the coercion and involuntary captivity of living beings who have complex thought, the ability to suffer, and the capacity for self-determination. Confining cetaceans has been shown to cause significant physical and psychological harm to them.

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The Animal Justice and Zoocheck application to intervene can be downloaded here.

The Aquarium’s petition can be downloaded here.

The Parks Board’s response to the petition can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

 

Animal Justice

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Animal Protection Groups Ask to Intervene in Vancouver Aquarium Lawsuit

Animal Justice August 16, 2017

VANCOUVER – Animal Justice and Zoocheck are seeking leave at the British Columbia Supreme Court to intervene in the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit against the Vancouver Park Board. The Aquarium is suing in an attempt to overturn the bylaw banning the Aquarium from confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in its facility in Stanley Park.

Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. The two organizations filed a joint intervention application this week.

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are deeply troubled by the Aquarium’s legal arguments, in particular the claim that its practice of confining cetaceans in captivity is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If confining animals in captivity is found to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression, there could be drastic consequences for animals. It would become difficult, if not impossible, to pass laws protecting animals from being confined as those laws would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

If granted leave to intervene, Animal Justice and Zoocheck will submit to the court that the capture, captivity, and confinement of cetaceans should not be considered ‘expression’. The organizations rely on well-established case law stating that expression that is violent or is connected with violence is not protected by section 2(b) of the Charter. Capturing and confining whales and dolphins are forms of violence, in that they involve the coercion and involuntary captivity of living beings who have complex thought, the ability to suffer, and the capacity for self-determination. Confining cetaceans has been shown to cause significant physical and psychological harm to them.

“The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim in this troubling lawsuit could permanently undermine animal protection laws right across Canada,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice.  “We hope to have an opportunity to explain this to the court.”

Animal Justice and Zoocheck are represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Farris Vaugh Wils & Murphy LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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The Animal Justice and Zoocheck application to intervene can be downloaded here.

The Aquarium’s petition can be downloaded here.

The Parks Board’s response to the petition can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

Julie Woodyer
Campaigns Director
julie@zoocheck.com

Animal Justice

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