Legal action in practice
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Animal Justice is Canada’s leading animal advocacy group, bringing lawyers and activists together to help make Canada a better place for animals. Our group works hard to advocate for better animal welfare laws, educate Canadians about unfair treatment of animals, and litigate on behalf of animals themselves. I have been a member of a consultation group – the Board of Advisors – since the group was founded in 2008. In 2016, I took a more active role with the organization, becoming a member of the Board of Directors tasked with overseeing Animal Justice’s operation and future role.
Arguing for animals in Canada’s Supreme Court – and making a difference!
This is the first time in Canadian history that the top court has considered any legislation directly protecting animals. It’s also one of the first times that animal advocates have been granted permission to make oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Animal Justice intervened to ensure the Supreme Court hears the perspective of countless animals who have no voices of their own. Whatever the outcome of the case, it was a victory for us to be there and speak for them.
The case – Her Majesty the Queen v. D.L.W. – was an appeal from a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal that seriously weakened the Criminal Code offence of bestiality. Instead of ensuring that all sexual abuse of animals remains illegal, the Court of Appeal ruled that only the penetration of animals is an offence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld that decision, indicating that changes were for Parliament to make.
As an intervener in the case, Animal Justice ensured that the Court heard why preventing harm to vulnerable animals is not only a fundamental societal value, but also a key objective of Canadian criminal law. We certainly managed to convince the dissenting judge, Abella J., of that fact!