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animal welfareDear Editor

Five years ago, Jeff Bogaerts, knowing there was a systemic problem with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (OSPCA), launched a charter challenge to correct a serious wrong.

Now after five long years the ruling came down, from the Court, saying that “law enforcement bodies must be subject to reasonable standards of transparency and accountability.” And that the “OSPCA is a private organization. Private organizations by their nature are rarely transparent, and have limited accountability…that a private organization having such powers was simply unacceptable,” and therefore sections 11, 12 and 12.1 were deemed unconstitutional because they granted police powers, including warrantless entry, to a private organization.

This has to do with making sure there was accountability with enforcement. As stated in a case from 2018:

“[23] … “trust us, we got it right” have no place in our democracy. In our system of governance, all holders of public power, even the most powerful of them—…—must obey the law: …. First, there must be an umpire who can meaningfully assess whether the law has been obeyed and grant appropriate relief. Second, both the umpire and the assessment must be fully independent from the body being reviewed. …

[24] Tyranny, despotism and abuse can come in many forms, sizes, and motivations: major and minor, large and small, sometimes clothed in good intentions, sometimes not. Over centuries of experience, we have learned that all are nevertheless the same: all are pernicious. Thus, we insist that all who exercise public power—no matter how lofty, no matter how important—must be subject to meaningful and fully independent review and accountability.”

Just last week the Attorney General’s (A.G.) office announced it is appealing the OSPCA case. According to some articles the A.G.’s office says "This principle does not meet the criteria for a principle of fundamental justice set out by the Supreme Court of Canada."

It gets worse! The Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, in charge of animal welfare, is quoted as saying: "While our government has decided to appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal ... that does not mean that Ontario's animal welfare regime cannot be strengthened and improved." And as the province has been involved with stakeholders to do just that - question…if they are already meeting to improve the animal welfare regime and the courts have stated that these sections are unconstitutional – why is the government wasting tax-payer’s money by appealing? Sounds like this government just doesn’t want to uphold your rights during the process of restructuring the Act, now doesn’t it?

Elizabeth F. Marshall
Director of Research Ontario Landowners Association

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