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Animal Justice Will Intervene in Lawsuit Challenging Ontario Animal Protection Laws

Animal Justice April 23, 2018

PERTH—National animal law non-profit Animal Justice has been granted intervener status in a lawsuit that attempts to strike down key aspects of provincial animal welfare laws and their enforcement.

The case, Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario, is a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s provincial animal welfare legislation and its enforcement. Specifically, the applicant is asking the court to rule that:

  • granting police powers to the Ontario SPCA, a private charity, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Ontario SPCA is not subject to transparency, oversight, and accountability measures that apply to other law enforcement agencies;
  • search and seizure powers used to protect animals and investigate animal welfare offences are too broad, violate the Charter, and should be struck down; and
  • animal protection offences in provincial law are criminal in nature and fall outside provincial powers, thus unlawfully intruding on federal jurisdiction.

“This case could weaken protections for millions of animals in Ontario—not just family pets like cats and dogs, but also animals confined in farms, fur farms, zoos, and aquariums,” said Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “It could also have national ramifications, potentially affecting the validity of animal protection laws and enforcement in other provinces. Animal Justice will be there to ensure the animals and their interests are represented in court.”

Animal Justice will argue that animals must be protected to the maximum extent possible under the law. To that end, Animal Justice shares many of the applicant’s concerns over the transparency, oversight, and accountability of animal law enforcement. However, Animal Justice believes that broad search and seizure powers are necessary in the unique context of protecting animals, who are often kept behind closed doors and cannot report illegal abuse themselves.

The case is scheduled to be heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Perth, Ontario on Wednesday, May 16. Animal Justice is represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

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More information about Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario is available on a website maintained by the applicant, found here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

 

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Vancouver Transit Police Target Animal Activist for Showing Slaughterhouse Footage

Animal Justice March 16, 2018

TransLink Transit Police in Vancouver have ticketed an animal advocate for spreading awareness of animal cruelty by showing farm and slaughterhouse footage to passersby on the street.

Jeff Rigear is a former undercover investigator on Canadian farms who now runs TV Outreach for Animals. Mr. Rigear sets up a 42-inch television screen on busy streets in Vancouver, and plays video footage exposing brutal conditions inside modern farms and slaughterhouses. He hands out leaflets and speaks with pedestrians about veganism to inspire personal dietary change and help save farmed animals from unimaginable suffering.

Mr. Rigear was recently approached by several transit police officers while doing outreach near a transit station. According to a letter filed by a lawyer for Mr. Rigear, the conduct of the officers was “extremely disturbing”. They rudely accused him of enjoying the slaughterhouse video, then told him repeatedly that they did not like his footage. Disturbingly, one officer suggested that he should “just smash [the] TV”.

The officers then had a lengthy discussion about how they could charge Mr. Rigear, and which laws they could accuse him of violating. They eventually issued him a ticket for soliciting transit users. However, the law is clear that soliciting requires an attempt to get money or other items of value from a person. Mr. Rigear was not asking for money—he was distributing information, and engaged in his constitutional right to express his views on animal cruelty, which is an important topic of intense public and social interest.

Animal Justice is concerned by this apparent attempt by TransLink Transit Police to target an animal advocate for his views. Animals have no rights of their own, which is why we regularly fight to protect the rights of advocates like Mr. Rigear who are targeted by law enforcement while engaged in lawful activities.

We will continue to monitor this case as it proceeds through the court system.

 

 

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Vancouver Aquarium Drops Copyright Lawsuit Against Filmmaker

Animal Justice March 8, 2018

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium has dropped its copyright lawsuit against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. The Aquarium filed a notice of discontinuance in the case this week, shortly before CEO John Nightingale was set to be cross-examined by counsel for Mr. Charbonneau.

The Aquarium first filed the copyright infringement lawsuit against Mr. Charbonneau in 2016 over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposed the Aquarium’s cruel practice of confining sentient whales and dolphins in concrete tanks. The lawsuit was deemed a misuse of copyright law by legal experts, designed to suppress public criticism and debate through the court process.

The Aquarium sought to have the entire documentary removed from the internet, and was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction ordering that certain segments be removed. On appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that injunction, emphasizing the importance of Mr. Charbonneau’s freedom of expression.

Animal Justice intervened in the appeal to express concerns that the case could negatively affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty issues across Canada, emboldening secretive animal use industries to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty.

“I am delighted this frivolous lawsuit has finally been dropped,” said Mr. Charbonneau. “However, I remain troubled by the Aquarium’s aggressive litigation strategy, and I am concerned they will continue to fight losing legal battles at the expense of conservation and rescue.”

“We are glad the Aquarium has finally determined to drop its unmeritorious lawsuit and let the documentary speak for itself, so that Canadians can make their own judgments about the ethics of the Aquarium’s practices,” said Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, counsel to Mr. Charbonneau.

“This lawsuit had disturbing implications for those who investigate, document, and expose animal cruelty,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “The writing is on the wall for the cruel captivity industry, as the public no longer supports keeping sentient animals confined for entertainment.”

The Aquarium also sought judicial review of the Vancouver Park Board’s bylaw banning them from keeping whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. The bylaw was overturned last month, but the Park Board is appealing to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

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The Notice of Discontinuance is available here.

For more information, contact:

Gary Charbonneau
evotioninc@gmail.com

Arden Beddoes
Arvay Finlay LLP
abeddoes@arvayfinlay.ca

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

Animal Justice

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